Effort where it's needed

Directing research effort where it is most needed.




This pattern is inspired by 'Site Repair' (1), the only pattern shared by both Alexander and the Edible Forest Gardens pattern language. Both are based on an unfortunate tendency for both building and habitat creation efforts to focus on the areas where they are least needed - the most beautiful and/or ecologically rich areas of the site, rather than those in need of remediation. This effect tends to be repeated in academic research, leading to neglect of many community groups, research fatigue among others, and potentially repeating an effect familiar to anthropologists working in well-studied areas, where the role of anthropologist's informant has become established as a professional niche.




At many different levels, academia tends to aggregate resources wherever they are already most abundant. Research funding increasingly accrues to individuals and institutions with track records, so that successful researchers increasing find their time dedicated to overseeing the work of others within large portfolios while ever larger numbers of struggle to get on the ladder, and more prestigious organisations monopolise resources while others struggle for economic survival. Student recruitment can operate on a similar pattern, leading to unfortunate parallels with the general tendency of capitalism to exacerbate inequalities of wealth, prestige, and status.



The same pattern often arises in community-based research, where researchers tend to cluster in large numbers around particular community groups and projects. The high profile and positive public perception of Transition since 2007 attracted large numbers of researchers, especially to Transition Network itself and prominent initiatives like Totnes and Lewes. This has on occasion been exacerbated by funders' policy: a major research councils funding call on Energy and Communities encouraged academics to seek collaboration with winners of DECC's Low Carbon Communities Challenge (LCCC). The communities involved had already secured substantial grants and were offered evaluation support within the programme; administering grants and projects on that scale was a major step up for many, whose capacity to engage, additionally, with researchers may have been stretched to the limit. In the case of the Transition Streets project, a combination of its own evaluation, a commissioned evaluation study by an academic researcher, and evaluation conducted by DECC as part of its own assessment of LCCC, makes it probably the most comprehensively documented Transition project anywhere. This is a valuable part of the evidence base, but contrasts strongly with the relative scarcity of evidence elsewhere. More generally, some Transition groups (and other community initiatives) report research overload, while others struggle to attract researchers interested in helping them address their research needs.


A related effect is the tendency to document success rather than failure - unsuccessful projects and groups tend to disappear into obscurity, and the reasons for failure or lack of progress are rarely captured so that others might learn from them.


This is made more difficult where research agendas are led by academic priorities rather than the practical aims of Transition.




The Research Marketplace makes visible where research needs lie.

Community-led research and collaborative design allow communities to set rather than follow research agendas.

Use of the Knowledge Base allows research gaps to be identified, and to avoid duplication.

Observe and interact - become part of a group.



(1) "Site Repair" (APL104 and EFG5)

Wheeled by Wagn v. 1.12.13