A critical realist investigation of collaborative research proposals in Information Systems: towards a guiding deliberation canvas

Thumbnail Image
McCarthy, James B.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University College Cork
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
This study is focused on the information flows, communication mechanisms, and review processes that take place around the proposal phase of a research project. The study included a survey plus six focus groups with the research offices of five universities plus one large research institute. Two of these universities are based in Ireland, two in the UK, plus one in Belgium. All universities are deemed as research intensive universities. This study employs a critical realist approach based on the exploration of the literature, the survey data, and insights from the focus groups. The critical realist approach used in this study is an example of how critical realism can be applied to a mixed methods project that includes an empirical study allied to feedback from focus groups. Important findings from the survey suggested that the perceived lack of time to be the biggest barrier for researchers to engage in research proposal development. This was followed by the challenges of internal administration and bureaucracy when getting involved in research projects. The next biggest challenge was the lack of knowledge and skills which prevented their engagement with interesting research calls or topics. One finding of the empirical study suggested that researchers are more concerned with winning funding for their research project first, with research and science as a secondary motivator. The study also produced the Stages, Phases, and Gates During Scientific Collaboration model (SPG) which builds a more comprehensive process view of the research lifecycle. This model contributes to the existing body of knowledge by combining stage-gate concepts to match the rule driven environment in use by research offices in universities, major collaborative funding bodies, and industry partners. Additional contributions include the development of the Research Deliberation Canvas (RDC) which promotes a more inclusive and structured approach to the early stages of a research proposal as well as promoting a more intrusive and engaging approach to reviews of the proposal with the PI, research collaborators, and especially the research office of the university. The inclusion of difficult questions regarding the strength and suitability of the proposal raise the touchy question whether it is advisable to continue with the effort if there is little chance of success. The focus groups suggested that utilising a canvas approach in the review process could facilitate the development and sharing of best practises within the research office and with researchers. Furthermore, it was suggested that there was potential benefit to leveraging the RDC as a training aid for academics new to research.
RDC , SPG , CR , Research deliberation canvas , Stages, phases, and gates during scientific collaboration , Research proposal , Proposal review , Pre-funding , Research lifecycle , Research process stages , Critical realism , Mixed methods , Research barriers , Research enablers , Research drivers , Critical realist
McCarthy, J. B. 2021. A critical realist investigation of collaborative research proposals in Information Systems: towards a guiding deliberation canvas. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.