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A tool for reflecting on research stances to support sustainability transitions


The success of transdisciplinary approaches to address sustainability problems largely depends on the compatibility between the research stances of the researchers involved. A research stance is the strategy used to deal with an indeterminate situation, and influences choices at all steps in knowledge production, such as defining a problem in scientific terms or selecting methods. These choices encompass epistemology, methodology and implementation. We present a heuristic tool for researchers to reflect on the choices that define their own research stances. Designed and tested as part of doctoral training, this tool uncovers how research choices can lead to a wide range of research stances about a situation that requires action. Our tool allows researchers to articulate and discuss their research stances, to facilitate their management within a project. It is also useful to understand the relevance for action of the knowledge they generate.

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Fig. 1: Relationship between a problematic situation in a changing world and scientific investigation.
Fig. 2: Heuristic tool for discussing a research stance.


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The authors thank D. Gardin, who produced the illustrations; A. Cardona, C. Fiorelli, B. Leclerc, G. Martel, F. Maxime, L. Prost and R. Sabatier, who tested the different versions of the tool during the JDD doctoral program; and A. Gibert, M. Sautier and C. Lacombe, who agreed to have their work presented in this paper. INRA’s SAD Department supported this work financially.

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P.S. initiated the work by proposing an interpretative framework that was transformed by L.H. into a reflexive tool. The framework and tool were then reworked during the development of the manuscript by all co-authors. The writing and revision process were led primarily by L.H.

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Correspondence to L. Hazard.

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Hazard, L., Cerf, M., Lamine, C. et al. A tool for reflecting on research stances to support sustainability transitions. Nat Sustain 3, 89–95 (2020).

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