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    Review of 'Growing interdisciplinary research capacity for sustainable development: Self-reported evaluation'

    Growing interdisciplinary research capacity for sustainable development: Self-reported evaluationCrossref
    An interesting article which would be mostly strengthened by some revisions to data presentation
    Average rating:
        Rated 4.5 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 5 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 5 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Competing interests:

    Reviewed article

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    • Abstract: found
    • Article: found
    Is Open Access

    Growing interdisciplinary research capacity for sustainable development: Self-reported evaluation

    Global challenges such as climate change, food security and human health and wellbeing disproportionately impact people from low-income countries. These challenges are complex and require an international and transdisciplinary approach to research, with research skills and expertise from different disciplines, sectors, and regions. In addressing this, a key goal of an official development assistance funded research project, Blue Communities, was to create and expand mutual interdisciplinary capacity of both United Kingdom and Southeast Asian Partners. An online survey was distributed to the participants of the Blue Communities project comprising researchers across all career stages. Participants were asked about their perceptions of the research capacity and culture of their organisation, team and self and whether they believed any aspects have changed since involvement with the project. Results were mainly positive across all aspects of research capacity but in particular from Southeast Asian respondents. The conflict between achieving research aims, building research capacity and making societal impact was evident. Institutional support is required to value these core aspects of interdisciplinary research.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Education,Earth & Environmental sciences
      environmental sustainability,Environmental science,research culture,interdisciplinary,marine and coastal ecosystems,Sustainability,transdisciplinary
      ScienceOpen disciplines:

      Review text

      Many thanks for the opportunity to review this interesting article, based on a survey of experiences from participants in a large-scale, interdisciplinary, cross-country research and capacity building project. The article fits within the scope of UCL Open: Environment and provides novel information and insights likely to be of interest to the wider community. I have provided some general and detailed comments and feedback below. Overall, my sense is that the article would be strengthened by relatively minor revisions, mostly focussed on data analysis and presentation.


      Title: I am not convinced that the title fully does justice to the scope and nature of the article. I would be tempted to switch out ‘Growing’ for a different term that sounds more purposeful / intentional like ‘Enabling’ or ‘Supporting’. While I realise it makes it a lot longer, the sub-title could be rephrased to better capture 1) the nature of the evaluation 2) the link with the project 3) maybe the counties involved e.g. : self-evaluation of the ‘Blue Communities’ project [in the UK and Southeast Asia]


      • ODA funding might need further explanation, or perhaps don’t include in the abstract and only in the body text
      • Line 50: ‘Results were mainly positive’ is too vague here. What do you mean by ‘positive’?
      • Is it possible to include any of the more detailed insights / findings?

      Body text

      • Line 63: Why was the UoL 2026 strategy highlighted here? It is a good example, but feels a little arbitrary as so many institutions have similar strategies. Was this one particularly ground-breaking?
      • Line 71 / 72: Consistency with the terms ‘capacity strengthening’ and ‘capacity building’. Make it clear if there is an intended difference between the two uses here and throughout the paper.
      • Line 94 / 95: It would be good to have a footnote with a bit more detail about the nature of GCRF. Especially if the reference to ODA funding is retained in the abstract.
      • Line 106: As above re: GCRF. It would be good to be a bit more explicit about the way in which the nature of this funding influence the scope and approach of the project
      • Line 114: Were these funding calls based on the redistribution of funds already won for the project, or was this something in addition?
      • Line 140: More detail about the survey is needed here. Who developed the survey (Author FC is stated in the author contributions, were their other contributors)? Who distributed the survey and how (via email to the project members, during meetings, through newsletters, via social media etc.)? How long was the survey open for / when did you decide how to close the survey?
      • Line 143: Explain more here how you defined the different career stages (shown in Section 1 of the survey). You do come back to this later in the paper, but it would be helpful to have a brief sense here of what the categories were and how you chose to define these stages.
      • Line 184: What kinds of ‘other’ institutions were represented?
      • Table 2: Check final formatting of table, as the separation between the definitions in the final row could be made clearer
      • Results: Did you use any more detailed statistical approaches to explore the correlations and differences between responses? This strikes me as being especially useful in the case of the data currently presented in Figures 6-9. These are really nicely illustrative, but a further exploration of the correlation would be very instructive.
      • Figure 1, 2, 3a, 4a, 5a: Reconsider the colour scheme used here. The ‘UK and other European’ category would benefit from being recoloured in something more contrasting  
      • Figure 3b, 4b, 5b: Reconsider the colour scheme used here. It would be better to use a scheme more clearly distinct from the accompanying charts to the left.  Perhaps it would be better onscreen to use a gradient based on one colour for the categories in (a) and a different colour for (b).
      • Figures 6-9: Why are the categories in reverse order top to bottom? (i.e. ending with A rather than starting)
      • Line 251: See also comments below re: creating a separate section for ‘Limitations of the study’
      • Figures 7-9: For quick visual communication of the results, I would advise keep the x axis consistent on all charts even where there is no data (e.g. some of the (b) charts showing the difference in response)
      • Line 429-430: By ‘this study’ you are referring to the project overall, rather that this manuscript?
      • Line 491-492: I think it is fine to be more definite here. There is plenty of evidence that the value placed on different aspects of the University differs from place to place.
      • Line 503-504: Not absolutely necessary to include, but notable that there are some attempt to change this through the links between REF and Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)  
      • Line 564-565: As above re: explaining a little more about GCRF and ODA link
      • Line 595-603: I would personally relocate this from the conclusion to a separate section on limitations of the study. This could do right at the end of the methods, or discussion, depending on the preferences of the author. Add in the point about the survey only being available in English.


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