Enabling the potential of Mission-led Research in New Zealand: Conceptualisations, Structures, and Relationships in the National Science Challenges
Addressing the Grand Challenges of the world requires a mode of research that can mirror their scale and complexity. Traditional investigator- and industry-led research frameworks, although useful in their own right, fail to capture the collaborative, transdisciplinary approach that can both generate the necessary knowledge and apply research outcomes on the scale needed to resolve the ‘big picture’ problems. Mission-led research provides a framework that attempts to strike that balance of knowledge generation and application; and New Zealand’s National Science Challenges (NSCs) provide a representation of missionled research that may exemplify the relationships and processes needed to enact it. This thesis aims to understand how the relationships and processes designed to facilitate mission-led research in the NSCs impacts their ability to achieve their missions. Research was undertaken through semi-structured interviews with participants from two NSCs, representing four of the key stakeholder perspectives: Management, Researchers, Industry, and Māori. These interviews sought to understand how different stakeholder groups conceptualised mission-led research itself, the processes within it, and their relationships with other stakeholder groups. The results demonstrated that stakeholders perceived mission-led research in four interdependent ways, driven by a core concept of ‘Big Picture’ problems. These problems were seen to necessitate ‘Transdisciplinarity’ in their resolution, that research would be ‘Long-term/Strategic’, and that research outcomes would have a ‘Collective Benefit’. Alignment between conceptualisations of mission-led research and how closely processes and stakeholder groups adhered to those conceptualisations was central to positive engagement and collaboration. Alignment between stakeholders was seen to occur through three modes: Conceptual, Structural, and Relational. Conceptual alignment promoted a common understanding of the mission; Structural alignment ensured research practices reflected mission-led values; and Relational alignment improved stakeholder understanding of diverse expectations and motivations amongst other worldviews. Successful NSCs used the three modes of alignment to improve transdisciplinary collaboration while maintaining diversity of worldviews and skillsets, enabling them to more effectively address their missions.