ECOBROKER aims to promote the integration of the research activities in third-level institutions with the efforts of local government, UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership (DBB), consultants and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help support sustainable and climate resilient development.
Collaboration through ECOBROKER aims to help to create sufficient understanding as to how governance, biodiversity management and planning interact with socio-ecological systems to produce the desired outcomes.
An important first step for developing this understanding and the necessary evidence base for decision making is the framing and formulation of questions. It is then necessary to consider:
While the importance of the link between research and practice for sustainable development has been recognized for a long-time, it has recently been highlighted again in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme Lima Action Plan (2016), which calls for the establishment of partnerships between Biospheres and universities, and for implementing collaborative projects that inform sustainable development.
A more recent 2022 Royal Irish Academy (RIA) white paper, ‘Better together: Knowledge co-production for a sustainable society’, provides an overview of knowledge co-production for sustainability and environmental research in Ireland; highlights the benefits and challenges of co-production approaches, and identifies key levers for building capacity and capability for knowledge co-production.
The UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership (DBB) partnership (which includes three local authorities, Dublin Port, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and Fáilte Ireland) is thus supporting this strategic initiative, which is manifest in them hosting the initial workshop for creating a researcher’s network.
At each of these steps, dialogue between practitioners and appropriate researchers is extremely beneficial.
ECOBROKER aims to be a transparent, easy-to-use platform, which can help participants to quickly and efficiently connect with people who are working on similar challenges.
This leads to collaborative problem framing, which is an important basis for shared research and provides a well-integrated, high-quality evidence base for decision making.
ECOBROKER facilitates research collaborations across disciplines and sectors in a timely, easily accessible and transparent manner. This offers immense benefits as it not only assures efficient and appropriately targeted research to address specified problems, but also improves the societal relevance and quality of research activity.
In these research projects, insights are examined from multiple perspectives, which helps to eliminate bias and increases the accessibility of relevant tools and data sources that can significantly contribute to creating a high-quality evidence base for decision making.
By facilitating common problem framing, ECOBROKER increases the ability of researchers to react quickly when new opportunities for research support become available such as calls for proposals for student projects or for large national and international (e.g. Horizon Europe) research funding calls, thus potentially unlocking research funding that can directly support local social and environmental problem solving.
Research ideas are classified into categories for ease of searching. A research idea can be in one or more categories. The number of research ideas in each category is shown next to the category title.
The ECOBROKER categories are:
These topics are used to classify both research ideas and interests of ECOBROKER participants.
Participants: Everybody who signs up to and uses ECOBROKER is a participant
Researchers and practitioners: There are two key words that address participants in the Ecobroker network: researcher and practitioner. These are defined as follows:
Practitioner: A practitioner is a participant in the ECOBROKER professional network who is professionally involved in governance, management, policy making, assessment, community organisation or planning. A practitioner will – through her/ his professional activities – have become aware of knowledge gaps that could be addressed by data collection and evaluation. Typically, a practitioner will be local authority staff, national or regional government staff, a professional at a consultancy, staff of an NGO, or similar. Practitioners will often be proponents of research ideas, and they may provide resources to address the research question in terms of their professional experience, access to field sites or datasets or other contributions to the research at hand.
Researcher: A researcher is a participant in the ECOBROKER professional network who is mostly interested in gathering empirical evidence that can help understand the problems highlighted in the research ideas and find potential solutions. Typically, researchers would be students or staff of third level institutions, or researchers from other research-focused professional institutions (e.g. Teagasc, Marine Institute, ESRI). Typically, the researcher would have access to and will consult with peer-reviewed scientific literature when addressing the research idea. The researchers do not necessarily have to be based in Ireland, but they have to have a means of interacting with the proponent of the research idea.
A person who suggests a research project is a proponent.