2nd chapter

Research Design

Zebra and fire on the plains of Serengeti National Park.
AfricanBioServices / Per Harald Olsen



In general, the research design phase is guided by addressing theoretical questions and research gaps to better understand ecological systems.  The design is increasingly becoming a collaborative process in which scientists from biodiversity-rich developing countries (such as Tanzania and Kenya) are included in the early stages of project and proposal development.  More needs to be done to ensure that this foundational phase in which questions, objectives, and methods are established is inclusive of the expertise, interests, and in situ knowledge of scientists and conservation partners who live in the country that hosts the field research.  Given the diversity of skill sets that were represented in the AfricanBioServices project from data enumerators to senior faculty, there are varying degrees of participation and awareness about the design phase of research.  This phase is driven by project leaders and trained scientists and, in this way, represents collaboration among the elite of the research group.  This occurs due to a number of factors, many of which relate to the norms and hierarchies of scientific disciplines and the funding landscape.  In this project, deliberate choices were made by the coordinating team to foster greater inclusion of African researchers.  This represents a positive step, but more work needs to be done to make this the norm rather than the exception.  Continued support of women and African scientific researchers, administrators, and assistants at all levels is necessary in follow-up.  The influence of inclusion in the research design phase would likely bring shifts to the very questions that are being asked and on whose behalf, which has implications for all other aspects of research.

Theorizing has been considered the pinnacle of scientific activities, and Africa has often been seen as a source of raw data and not a source of theory.  Theory from the global south (3) is growing in importance and, concurrently, new relationships between theoretical interests and emerging case studies.  As new cases and questions are being incorporated into research design, the explanatory power of the most resilient theories and hypotheses is being challenged and improved.  Participatory research, the use of science by governments in the developing world, and the gradual increase of scientists who are from countries in which research is conducted shapes the research design phase.  Foreign scientists are developing connections and relationships to people beyond the boundaries of conservation areas.  This expands the scope of research beyond traditional scientific concerns with the flora and fauna within and near conservation areas.  Conservation research is then situated in a broader context and is understood as connected to local, national, regional, and international socio-ecological dynamics.  As these trends continue, increased awareness, accuracy, and accountability in the research design phase should emerge among foreign and African scientists.  

A focus on the themes of context, cooperation, and communication during research design can help to clarify and refine this phase.  Connecting the field site as a context to a research project as a context is important during the research design phase.  If these two contexts are connected and reflect one another during the research design phase, the probability of a successful research project increases.  When the scientific and research contexts are connected, the research project is more practical and more meaningful.  Furthermore, the accuracy and efficacy of methods, models, and findings increase when context is introduced at the research design phase by those who understand it.  It cannot be assumed by researchers that the context of the field site and research project are the same, should be the same, or should be forced to be the same.  The similarities and differences between the research project and the field site and communities who neighbour the field site are dynamic and debatable. For instance, conservation research projects are viewed as non-secular but, in many cases, the communities surrounding conservation areas have robust religious institutions.  The research design is an opportunity to discuss the connections and disconnections between researchers’ understandings of the field site and the perception of the field site by other stakeholders.  These various perceptions do not always synch and cannot always be easily reconciled.  This understanding of context sets the stage for cooperation in a diverse context that tolerates disagreement and discussion.  

Cooperation during the design phase is essential.
AfricanBioServices / Per Harald Olsen

Cooperation during the design phase is important because it is through cooperation that diverse insights are integrated at the foundational level versus being incorporated extemporaneously or ignored.  The cooperation and connections established in the early phases of research extend throughout the life of the project and beyond.  Cooperation is not always easy for human beings who are in competition with one another or come from very different backgrounds.  In many cases, projects are designed by a group of researchers with relatively little diversity.  While this text does not attempt to establish rules for cooperation, it codifies that cooperation is difficult, even for people who are committed to collaborating cooperatively.  It also provides a basis for criticism of projects that do not prioritize cooperation.  Embedded in the excerpts below from participants in the AfricanBioServices project are encouragements and insights about the importance of cooperation and the consequences of neglecting it in conservation research.  The understanding of conservation research involves diverse stakeholders and mandates that researchers take a cooperative posture as they engage the stakeholders.  To acknowledge that conservation involves diverse stakeholders while ignoring the contributions and concerns of this diverse group furthers a disconnect between design and implementation.  

Central to cooperation is communication.  Communication can be a source of function and dysfunction in a conservation project.  The success of cooperation and an understanding of context often hinge on communication.  Particular concern for communication during the research design phase begins the process of engaging multiple perspectives.  Communication in the research design phase should be open, with the goal of clarity and understanding.  During the design phase, a wide lens is potentially used.  As a result, important information may be presented in different languages and disciplinary jargon, and in this way, the research design process becomes multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and multi-disciplinary.  Challenging topics are raised and discussed.  Disagreement emerges.  As with context and cooperation, communication is not a prescribed end or a static set of rules but a process.  The process by which the research design takes shape is an opportunity to communicate the goals of a research project to a broad audience of stakeholders and incorporate their feedback.  This requires commitment, transparency, and oversight because misunderstanding and marginalization in projects often manifest in silencing certain stakeholders.

A key goal of the research design phase is the early stage recognition of conservation research as social.  The pillars of the research process, which is dynamic, are established in the design phase.  Time should be allotted to establish pillars that are strong, adaptive, and sensitive to the human component of conservation research.  If the themes of context, cooperation, and communication are turned into practices during the research design phase, a marker is set.  As a research project takes shape, the research design may be amended, but these markers enable changes to be tracked in relation to the original goals and ethos.  An understanding of context, cooperation, and communication during the research design phase has intellectual and social impacts.  When scientists prioritize these three dimensions, the relevance of the research project improves in breadth and depth.  An ongoing commitment to these three dimensions, if established in the research design phase, aids in the interdisciplinary and indigenous connectivity of conservation research in the long-term.


Research Design & The 3Cs

The following quotations reflect the views of participants in the AfricanBioServices project when asked about the process of research design.  After transcribing the interviews, the quotes were thematically organized, and the analytic frame of the 3Cs—context, cooperation, and communication—emerged.  This tripartite frame is used below to classify and present the quotations.  The quotations are not free-standing but are diverse individual voices that are grouped and sequenced thematically.  This highlights the variation and consensus among scientists about conducting research in an interdisciplinary and international group.



You can design a purely chemical type of research, but this type of research has been overpowered over the years.
– Othman Chande

First, you begin with different disciplines and tackle research questions from different angles.  When you are working together in a multidisciplinary environment, researchers have different knowledge and experience.  You address so many issues at the same time, especially in the early stages as the focus of the project is taking shape.  Many problems are interlinked so when you use only one discipline, you only solve one link between the multiple facets.  If you are many disciplines, you can produce a design that tackles the links together and make a better informed outcome.
– Robert Fyumagwa

If you can, base yourself near the field site during the design phase or for periods during the design.  This will help with the conceptual and logistical aspects.
– Stuart Smith

My study of conservation comes from the critical social science side of the literature.  Closely following the debates as an insider in the AfricanBioServices project gave me insight into the kind of arguments that originate from conservation biologists and the dynamics within the discipline itself. It made me realize that there is a great disciplinary rift between our academic debates and a great need to bridge this rift.  
— Tekle Weldemichel

Conceptually addressing protected area boundaries is challenging, in part, because there are conflicts at these land use transitions.  Novel solutions are needed to deal with protected area boundaries.  In southern Africa, protected areas are often fenced.  In Tanzania, that is generally not seen as a valid solution, and boundaries are soft.  Fencing and hard boundaries impact ecological functioning as they strongly separate people and wildlife.  But, without hard such boundaries, people and wildlife are increasingly in conflict.  These are important issues and problems needing further research.  
— Han Olff

During the design phase, using the gaps from different disciplines can produce more sophisticated objectives and activities.  
— Julius Nyahongo  

The researchers should always take into account the need to familiarize on the knowledge of the country to which they are travelling to conduct research.  They must continue to try to understand the circumstances beyond just the literature review.  If research only represents an outside perspective, there is the danger of producing findings that are inadequately reflecting the local context.  Understanding the environment and engagement of people will suit the objective and findings of the research and possibly the comparison between different countries or issues under consideration. The solutions that come from research become feasible because they take into account the real situation on the ground.  Encourage researchers to do so-called participatory research.  
— Iddi Mihijai Mfunda

Indigenous knowledge can be combined with the knowledge from the natural sciences in the design phase and this approach can be used to protect wildlife surrounding the ecosystem.  

What is the context of the problem and how is it reflected in the conceptual framework?  Is it global?  Is it the region of Africa?  In East Africa only?  In Tanzania only?  Then, you can see how variables are contingent on scale and how to design the research accordingly.
– Julius Nyahongo

Research topics have generally been treated as separate, but the changes to the ecosystem are interactive and the factors that lead to change are interactive so we need an interactive approach.  If this approach is taken, considering interactions among main factors is built into the design.  
– John Bukombe

A well-organized approach is needed to capture interactions in the system and among scientists, natural and social, who study them.  
– John Bukombe

The research design needs to be evaluated in terms of whether people in the respective context will participate fully.  Will they respond to your questions?  Will they be willing to participate?  These are among important questions to be answered.  
– Ophery Ilomo

Communities may stop participating in research because they don’t see results and they don’t see how the results help them. The design should incorporate this.  


Cooperation (36)

There are key elements for interdisciplinary research teams. There needs to be extensive time, at the beginning of the research, building and reflecting on and discussing terms and jargon, conceptual models, prevailing theories, and potential inter-disciplinary biases. This needs to be followed by interdisciplinary conceptual modeling, linking different parts of the system. Then in crafting the research questions, it is critical that the questions actually span different disciplines, if you want to actually answer interdisciplinary questions. An example questions might look like this: how does human culture affect landscape function?   I include stakeholders in each part of the above process. And, then we make sure that each question is not only interdisciplinary but has a practical aspect that communities care about.
– Robin Reid

Through bringing together expertise on a broad range of disciplines from diverse institutes, research can illuminate the current situation in the Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem regarding biodiversity conservation and human well-being.  The close collaboration between African and European scientists has great potential to yield a firm basis for both scientific research and societal developments for decades to come.
– Michiel Veldhuis

Time allocation and time management is key.  The challenge is getting everyone to work and agree with one another from the start. Nevertheless, with AfricanBioServices the challenge was overcome.  
– Devolent Mtui

Making an application for such a big and complex project is difficult, not at least when so many researchers and institutions are involved and the topics are so diverse.  The research design inevitably reflects the researchers’ personal interests – that is a strength and a challenge. As close cooperation is a necessary survival and success strategy for a project, it is easy to see that the research design should have been discussed more thoroughly in advance, in a workshop. This is however, both a practical and economic question. The overall research design is essential and connecting this to the subprojects within a larger project requires another level of planning, coordination, and designing.
– Kjetil Bevanger

There were multiple times I thought the train was going come off the tracks, but somehow we were able to keep it together.  In hindsight I think this came down to friendships that developed between people based on shared experiences and interests. This enabled the trust and respect required for frank discussions which led to a conciliatory attitude between work packages.  Without this social fabric, the story would undoubtedly be very different.  
– Grant Hopcraft

Livestock densities are increasing around the GSME.
AfricanBioServices / Per Harald Olsen

Research is more effective and efficient when scientists are tolerant.  In this process, scientists can demonstrate tolerance with one another and the non-scientific community, which is a skill and a commitment.  
– Gine Roll Skjærvø

Start collaborating with people and build your ambitions in conversations with one another.  
– Han Olff

In the ideal world, research collaborations would begin with a workshop and a pilot project.   This did happen to some extent in our project and was helpful.   However, we are far apart and not always able to integrate in the planning phase.  As a result, the integration happens in the field while collecting data.  
– Bente Graae

Many people are busy with many professional responsibilities.  There are times when coming together and work as a group is important.  Patience is important, but also sometimes you have to push to get things done.  Be patient and push and make a way to communicate, to reach one another.
– Devolent Mtui

It always starts with the proposal.  The proposal is where the vision is painted in bright colours and linked to clear questions that are both critical and feasible.  We promised a lot on the AfricanBioServices and developed some hugely novel techniques and insights, such as the use of the tail hairs to create physiological diaries of animals as they migrate and the cascading effects that humans can have on core ecological processes.  However, what we over looked in drafting the proposal was ensuring all collaborators were sufficiently well resourced to meet their visions and in hindsight we could have done this better.  This was partially because each institute was responsible for submitting their own budget.  Invariably the experienced and well-resourced institutions did this better, which meant some of our Tanzanian and Kenyan collaborators did not have enough to complete all the tasks they wanted to.  This caused tensions especially for joint work packages, which led to the second lesson - negotiation with collaborators.  AfricanBioServices was heavily inter-linked across institutes both within Europe and between Europe and Africa.  
– Grant Hopcraft

One must understand the capabilities of partners and what can be realistically accomplished by each partner.  The design phase is one opportunity to gain clarity around this issue.  Each partner must make a clear contribution while drafting the design.   The tasks should be divided and each partner should explain and contribute.  Through this, capabilities and expectations can begin tobe realistically established.  This is one of the purposes of the research design phase.
– James Odek

Respect among researchers is important. You need not focus on your friend’s weaknesses. In Africa, we do not have great libraries or the newest statistical packages. While European universities are rich. They have many things and are developing many things. There is a very strong relationship between industry and universities, which is not well developed in Africa. Industry incentives young scientists and shapes the questions that are asked.

In Africa, we have good ideas and we need resources to develop them. I have more than 10 questions, which are international in scope, but no resources.

When people from one country want to research in another, it is very good to collaborate with locals.  They understand the problems.  The problems cannot only be designed in Europe.  The design may make sense there but then researchers have to force things on the ground according to their thinking in the design phase.
– Julius Nyahongo

The meetings for all project members coming together are important.  During these discussions, the vision for the project and the activities that comprise the vision are defined and refined.  It is also how we realize the gaps.
– Janemary Ntalwila

Capacity building is an important part to consider in the early stages.  Capacity building can include equipment, facilities, and personnel training.  All are important.  Think creatively and pragmatically about what capacity you have to transfer and which you would like to gain.  
– Patrick Wargute

Bringing together an equal number of conservation institutions and institutions of higher learning throughout the region is important.  Uganda was not included in this phase but should be included in future research.  
– Janemary Ntalwila

If you use the power and expertise of the different people, this can lead to novel synthesis of ideas, new hypotheses, which are beyond what an individual researcher can do.  If someone is working on vegetation, modelling animal populations, economics, and they speak to different aspects but together they produce a more rounded view of how things are working.  In this sense, the sum is greater than the parts.
– Joseph Ogutu

For a Danish student, having actual experience on the ground, for instance volunteering with an NGO, to get insights into the actual problems and constraints that appear would be important qualities.  It is difficult to design a meaningful study from abroad if you have no actual experience.  Collaborate with people who have a long-term presence, whether they are part of the East African community or researchers who have worked there. Those with longer track records are essential.
– Martin Nielsen

Interdisciplinary work is a new type of thinking that is becoming popular and increasingly effective.  In the recent past, chemists focused on our chemistry.  Biologists focused on biology.  But, now problems are coming out that are related to each other, so if you just solve the chemistry part, it doesn’t give you a solution.  For instance, before a chemist can measure the chemical properties, we may need biologists to identify the correct species.  We need each other, especially in conservation projects.
– Othman Chande

The main obstacle is that we look at the same thing differently. Biodiversity is looking at species, looking at traits and behaviour. We (chemists) think about biodiversity but in terms of the chemicals and reactions that comprise an ecosystem. During the design phase, the main challenge is to convince the other partner that my way of looking is relevant to the solution, which can be difficult.
– Othman Chande

Given my background, I recommend consulting a statistician early to determine sample size, the appropriate layout of the design in the field.  But, over and above the statistics, try to visit the study site so that you are familiar and can decide where in a system that you will focus because you have limited resources.  How am I going to lay out my sampling units, maybe transects or sampling plots?  A detailed understanding of the site is necessary.  You’ll need to make a plan to match locations during a collaborative project.
– Joseph Ogutu

We are the only work package that deals directly with the socioeconomic issues, so it’s been a challenge to fit in and align with the other objectives. At the Consortium level, it would have been nice to have another social science discipline and work package.
– Martin Nielsen

First, the design must be well thought out, and the research plan emerges from that.

Mwalimu Nyerere was a great thinker.  What the world is trying to address now.  He thought about a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing problems in conservation at the time of independence.  That is why he said that conservation of our resources is for the nation and the entire world.  In this, he is consideration multiple perspective.  This is foundational to conservation in Tanzania.  
– Robert Fyumagwa

The challenge of working in a large project is the diversity of backgrounds and experiences. It can be difficult to get people talking to each other. There is a risk, if one is not careful, that the research will be multi-disciplinary but not interdisciplinary. You want cross-cutting issues that enable people to work together and exchange ideas. The hope is that we bring the knowledge from different disciplines to bear on the project. We are then able to look at the problem in a way that is far beyond a single discipline.
– Joseph Ogutu

We designed our project together.  We wrote the proposal together and everyone was clear about what was going in the proposal.  Then, everyone played his or her part as well as learned and exchanged.  Not only during the stages of proposal writing but also during data analysis because as a group, we agreed this has to be part of capacity building.  This was a common goal and, as result, everyone developed new capacities.
– John Bukombe

Tolerance is necessary. Working across differences can be difficult at times. Prioritize this in the design phase.

These collaborations are crucial to addressing ecosystems.  The time when people are working alone is gone.  
– Joseph Ogutu

We have different fields, different nomenclatures in our fields and this takes you out of your comfort zone, which is a challenge.  Learning the nomenclature is important during the design phase.
– Joseph Ogutu

For research design, I would advise a student to think seriously about the capacities and skills represented in your team. Plan something that can be executed based on the skills in the group and the scientific merit of the research.
– Hamza Kija

Understand the research design in terms of purpose and techniques.  Read it thoroughly and repeatedly throughout the project to stay focused on the broad goals and specific processes.
– Masoud Masoud

Junior scientists must be involved in the design.  Senior researchers want publications.  They want to be known in their fields, and this influences the designs.  Junior researchers can help maintain the connection between design and research innovation because they are eager.  
– George Kajembe

When beginning to work together as a group, we tend to underestimate the number of days that we need in order to communicate and translate our objectives across disciplines and cultures. Sufficient time in the beginning can reduce differences in the future as a working team.

Throughout this project, our research requirements were met and we were not in the position of needing to request something that had not been provisioned for.  This was the result of good planning in the design phase.
– Masoud Masoud

Project planning can begin as well at the district level.  Information can be collected there and move upward versus top-down.  It is time for things to be the other way around.  The topics that researchers are interested in really impact people’s lives.  They should be incorporated from the beginning.
– Angela Hezekiah

We normally speak of inclusion in decision making, but inclusion can be a part of research design.  Cattle are important for people. This should influence research design and the questions and problems that are being addressed through research.
– Philip Jacob

Time management.  The interconnected and cumulative nature of work in a large project means that time management must be implemented across various phases.
– George Kajembe

Collaboration and participation of key actors and this includes scientists and local communities.  Local communities have a historical relationship with wildlife.
– Rose Kicheleri

When we design our research, we need to look holistically at the problems in ecosystems.  This can be overwhelming and requires a great deal of upfront effort.  
– Philip Jacob

There are prejudices that influence collaboration. This needs to be discussed.

Expectations, understandings, and interests can be completely different.  These can be irreconcilable.
– Vedasto Ndibalema

Disciplines can work to internalize one another during the research design phase.
– Vedasto Ndibalema

Social difference is broad. There are a number of kinds of differences to consider. Social difference, educational difference, personality difference. It is not always obvious in what respects we are different. You must get to know people before assuming similarities and differences. Difference is not necessarily a barrier.

Research design is the phase that should be integrated in every study to fully address the research problem in a coherent and logical way.
– Franco Mbise

Different knowledge, different skills, different approaches from different sources can arrive at a comprehensive research design.  
– Rehema Ulimboka

Multi-disciplinary approach gives an opportunity to learn and see what other disciplines can offer relative to a specific area of common interest.  
– Vedasto Ndibalema

These projects offer opportunities for young scholars to learn new techniques, equipment, and how to organize large groups.  This aspect of design—who does what with whom—is an important consideration in terms of skills and capacity building.  
– Shombe Hassan

We look for commonalities, but we must also try to move closer and align our focus.  
– Vedasto Ndibalema

A bricklayer at work.
AfricanBioServices / Per Harald Olsen

Making time for face-to-face workshops with policy makers and other stakeholders during the design phase.  
– Joseph Ogutu

A mistake is to try and write drafts for partners during the initial phases of the design phase and then ask is this ok.  The early stages of the design phase allow partners to articulate their capabilities.  If they cannot do this, you may have trouble later.    
– James Odek

People often underestimate the cost of travelling within and from developing countries to participate in planning meetings to organize funds for research.  
– Masoud Masoud

Research design sets the frame.  It is key issue in a research. It has to be manageable.  It has to be something that can be executed in the allocated time scheduled.  It has to be achievable.  It has to be within your limits, in terms of finance and resources.  
– Ophery Ilomo

Communication is key during the design phase.  A collaborator will send an email and expect a response in a very short time.  Sometimes, we have no internet or power or we are in the field.  It is important to be conscientious of the logistical context of the recipient.
– John Mgonja



Research design is about clarity.  Research problems can be huge and your objectives need to be achievable.  It shouldn’t be a shotgun approach, where many pellets spray and a target might be hit.  Be specific so your colleagues don’t have to return to your question because it wasn’t probably addressed.  If you provide a focused answer to an important question, you make a contribution that can be built upon and debated. Define your contribution through research design.  
– Norman Owen-Smith

We understand things from different angles and so you must spend time with people in order to understand things holistically, while specializing in your angle.  In the early phases, sharing stories from the field, sharing science, sharing challenges, and new approaches is how groups of scientists can develop the relationships and bonds needed to undertake interdisciplinary research.
– Philip Jacob

Having more social scientists creates a more vibrant debate useful for addressing both conservation and social concerns.
– Tekle Weldemichel

In remote sensing, there are different approaches and they vary across institution and individual.  Harmonizing these approaches is important to creating a common methodology.  I was involved in this process and I proposed a methodology based on a previous project in which I had worked.  It was relevant and it was adopted.  But, this required multiple meetings and forums to come to this agreement.  
– Merceline Ojwala

As far as research is concerned, it is very important that the objectives and goals are common and clear.  If it is international and multidisciplinary, it is very important to read.  If they are developing the proposal, the theoretical framework becomes important.   What have people done in the past? AfricanBioServices is a multidisciplinary project aimed at total ecosystem functioning.  Climate, ecology, human-wildlife, carnivore-herbivore, disease, et cetera.  Researchers need to thoroughly review the literature with a particular emphasis on sources from the country.  
– Julius Nyahongo

Communication and team work are essential. Varying levels of commitment and / or interest from different partners have the potential to throw a major spanner in the works.  
– Craig Jackson

Describing data is important.  Spend time on describing the meta-data well.  To make this point clear through an exercise, ask people to understand a dataset that is not well described or notated.  This can help people to understand the importance of good quality meta-data and good quality data.  Poor meta-data can lead to poor interpretation.
– Peter Ranke

Researchers are coming from different nationalities, cultures, and disciplines and it can be a challenge to understand one another.  The other challenge is some of us work in remote areas and it can be difficult to communicate. From my field station, which is in a remote area, communication can be a challenge, Skype is a challenge.  For many years, we struggled to maintain a consistent internet connection and now have it.  For now, we managed to have that.  It has been a serious problem—communication. At points in the project, when communication is critical such as the research design, consider accessibility and location.  
– Robert Fyumagwa

Working with people from different nations and backgrounds is challenging but interesting. Make sure that your design is in place and communicated well ahead of time. There are internet issues, scheduling issues. There are communication challenges and stakeholders should have plenty of time to review the documents.

When we are designing our projects and budget, we need to allot funds for publishing and dissemination.  If I want to go to town or to a village to tell them what I found, they will tell me they need a seating allowance.  In a poor country, you need a fund to disseminate directly to them.  In the villages, where there is no electricity or radios to buy newspapers or the newspaper delivery is not regular, the best way is in person.  It is important to understand these costs from the beginning.
– Julius Nyahongo

We appreciate those that designed this project.  From the beginning, the goals were very ambitious.  The time needed to achieve these goals never feels sufficient.  Focusing the broad goals of the project in this short period of time is a challenge.  We prioritize the gaps.
– Janemary Ntalwila

Somebody did this and learned this, and therefore, it is necessary to address the following.  Students should form the problem statement to address what has been done.  Justification for the problem can be done in as short as three paragraphs.  Just as biologists have a framework of organization—cells make tissue, tissues make organs, organs make systems, and systems make an individual.  Words are like cells to make a sentence, sentences are like a tissue to make a paragraph, paragraphs are like an organ and make a chapter, a chapter is like a system and many chapters will make a book as with a human or organism.  The problem statement brings ideas together in a very organized and systematic way.  Biology students must also write in an organized manner just as they understand biological life in an organized manner.
– Julius Nyahongo

When we began designing the project, I wondered why everyone only thinks of wildlife and not about the chemistry involved when we know chemistry is involved in all life.  My collaborators were accepting of that, so then we have the task of detailing how to include chemistry and work towards the broader goal of the research.
– Othman Chande

First, you identify the question and problem. Try to establish what are the questions and the objectives of addressing this research problem and then identify expertise from different institutions to produce comprehensive outputs that address this research problem. Communication between researchers from different institutions is key throughout this process and this established in the beginning.

– Robert Fyumagwa

Meeting in person is crucial in terms of clearing up issues that may be overlooked in digital communication.


Discussion Questions


Using the experiences of AfricanBioServices researchers, what specific issues emerged relative to the 3Cs during the research design phase of this international and interdisciplinary project. Based upon their insights, what would you have done to avoid or address the problems?


Pick one of the quotes that impacted you and explain why.


What strategies might you use to ensure that a large international and interdisciplinary team has enough background literature in common?


Create an experiment (regarding conservation) and discuss the role of the 3Cs in its execution.  This should include evaluating the theoretical and practical aspects of research.


A common platform for long-distance communication is necessary for collaborative international, interdisciplinary research (WhatsApp, GoogleDocs, SharePoint, Slack, DropBox, etc.).  Explore these various tools. Which one or combination of tools would you choose to facilitate digital group communication over the lifespan of the project?  Keep in mind the various phases of research.


Before field work, how can you work to ensure that your project has applied value and meaning in its social context?  Think of a specific context


What criteria might Janemary Ntalwila and Han Olff use to evaluate field sites?  Are there clashes between these criteria?  How can the 3Cs be used to ensure that such clashes don’t result in this decision being made by only a few people on behalf of the entire group?


A few of the scientists raise the challenges of blending multiple perspectives, methods, and measures during the research design phase.  How important are the 3Cs for combing multiple perspectives?  Is one more important than the other?  


Are there indications from researchers in the quotes above that they had different research interests and explanations for the field site.  How would you address a collaborator that wanted to design and project in an entirely different direction?


How would you communicate the research design to a large group of interdisciplinary and international collaborators?


John Mgonja highlights the logistical and conceptual challenges of sharing the research design with non-scientific stakeholders.  What challenges might you expect when explaining the research design to local politicians and communities who you encounter in the field?  How might the 3Cs aid you in addressing the challenges?

1)  See Jean and John Comaroff’s  (2013) Theory from the South: Or, how Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa
The 3Cs