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Organization and management of natural resources and environmental research




Van Haveren, Bruce P., author
Woodmansee, Bob, advisor
Child, Dennis, committee member
Dyer, Al, committee member
Hautaluoma, Jack, committee member
Lawrence, Bob, committee member

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The organization and management of research lacks a unifying theoretical foundation. A post-reformative theory of research management is based on six cornerstones: 1) the research enterprise consists of multiple dimensions and this multiformity is potentially synergistic; 2) knowledge is gained incrementally throughout the research process; 3) research is a form of societal investment possessing both risks and potential gains; 4) research organizations are inherently self-organizing and dynamic; 5) research is increasingly pluralistic and heterogeneous; and 6) research evaluations must focus on processes, outcomes, or overall effectiveness, in terms of both intrascientific and extra scientific contributions. Based on observations of 14 environmental research groups at six environmental research laboratories, group research organizes naturally and informally in environmental research settings primarily because of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental research. Groups were not necessarily identifiable in organizational charts. Often they were spontaneously occurring dyads or clusters of individuals with similar interests or interdependent skills. A formal division and branch structure hinders group research because of fiefdom attitudes of branch chiefs. Epistemological differences exist within research groups and may present obstacles or result in dysfunctional groups. Research groups must spend considerable time on problem definition, problem analysis. Working towards a group goal, and developing a common system of inquiry. Perceived performance did not correlate well with measured performance. If perceived performance is a part of research evaluation, perceptions of performance must be specific as to performance criteria. For the research groups studied, member-perceived publication quality was not well correlated with measured publication quality. Director-perceived performance did not reflect measured performance. Goal congruence between group leaders and members was high in the case of the fourteen research groups. However, communication about expectations and performance broke down between laboratory directors and research groups. The dynamic constellation, an organizational model stressing a flexible, organic, group oriented structure and integrator and boundary-spanner roles, is recommended for natural resource and environmental research organizations. A multidimensional research portfolios suggested as a management approach. Managing research portfolios in a pluralistic and heterogeneous environment involves a large number of essential tensions, but these tensions also become an effective management tool.


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natural resources
environmental sciences


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