Action Research – A New Approach for Environmental RD&I

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Abstract

High efficiency research, development and innovation (RD&I) constitute an answer to the ever growing importance that EU states give to knowledge-based development (a central idea in the Europe 2020 Strategy), directed toward finding comprehensive solutions to concerns connected to the Europe’s resource depletion, energy future, climate changes, etc. The "Action Research" paradigm appeared in the late 1940s but its systematic application is the attribute of recent years. It keeps researchers in the real world, requires teamwork, collaboration with communities and other stakeholders. Action Research is especially suitable in projects for reducing anthropic footprint / environmental aggression and in waste management. In essence, Action Research (for the first time systematically applied in Romania) is the research approach that lets the problem studied to conduct the analysis and generate appropriate solutions; it constitutes a flexible, versatile technique to generate new knowledge through iterative interaction with the domain studied - namely the environment - researchers and communities.

The paper presents the application of Action Research in a Norwegian-financed, Industrial Symbiosis Project in Romania. Details of the Action Research as a tool for training young researchers are presented. Solutions generated during the application of Action Research dealt with the identification of new ways to turn waste into valuable resources, assessing the merits of multiple alternatives and picking up the optimal one form the triple bottom line (economic, environmental, social) characteristic to sustainable development.

The paper examines the issues of multi-disciplinary ways, how Action Research can be integrated into academic curricula, giving practical results which make it more accessible to students. When compared to the traditional way of training researchers and scientific research approach, Action Research is clearly a better approach, widening the horizon offered by accountability, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge generation processes.

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