There is no point conducting research unless some assessment of need has been conducted.
Our research with Transition found that it is quite common for researchers to approach Transition wanting to conduct projects without any appraisal of what is needed by, useful or relevant to the movement or individual initiatives.
This problem reflects a wider tendency in academic research - it is not always joined up with research needs 'on the ground'. Academic research tends to be driven by what existing academic research has suggested is important and interesting (a self-reinforcing problem), or delimited funding calls.
The growing recognition and value given to "relevant" research is changing this to some extent, see Making a difference. However, this focus on "impact" doesn't necessarily translate into careful assessment of what needs are at research sites or organisations.
On the other hand, Transitioners havea good sense of what research needs are. So it is not difficult to exchange this knowledge and come to some mutually agreed focus.
Assess need before formulating or embarking on a research project. This is easily dont by speaking to Transitioners and looking at online resources.