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The research journey: travels across the idiomatic and axiomatic toward a better understanding of complexity

Katharine A. McGowan, University of Waterloo, Canada
Frances Westley, University of Waterloo, Canada
Evan D. G. Fraser, University of Guelph, Canada
Philip A. Loring, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Kathleen C. Weathers, Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies, United States
Flor Avelino, Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Netherlands
Jan Sendzimir, International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, Austria
Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Indiana University (Bloomington), United States
Michele-Lee Moore, University of Victoria, Canada


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In this paper, seven researchers reflect on the journeys their research projects have taken when they engage with and synthesize complex problems. These journeys embody an adaptive approach to tackling problems characterized by their interconnectedness and emergence, and that transcend traditional units of analysis such as ecosystems. In this paper we argue that making such a process deliberate and explicit will help researchers better combine different research paradigms such as expert-driven and participant-directed work, thus resulting in both broad explanations and specific phenomenon; research tensions traditionally defined as oppositional must be approached as complimentary. This paper includes researchersí personal journeys as they dealt with the emergent properties of complex problems and participant involvement. This paper argues that that research journey should be more than accidental but is a methodological necessity and should guide the theoretical and practical approaches to complex problems.

Key words

complexity; interdisciplinarity; social-ecological systems; transdisciplinarity

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087