Enabling Political Legitimacy and Conceptual Integration for Climate Change Adaptation Research within an Agricultural Bureaucracy: a Systemic Inquiry

  • Andrea GrantEmail author
  • Ray Ison
  • Robert Faggian
  • Victor Sposito
Original Paper


The value of using systems approaches, for situations framed as ‘super wicked’, is examined from the perspective of research managers and stakeholders in a state-based climate change adaptation (CCA) program (CliChAP). Polycentric drivers influencing the development of CCA research pre-2010 in Victoria, Australia are reflected on, using Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) to generate a boundary critique of CCA research as a human activity system. We experienced the complexity of purpose with research practices pulling in different directions, reflected on the appropriateness of agricultural bureaucracies’ historical new public management (NPM) practices, and focused on realigning management theory with emerging demands for adaptation research skills and capability. Our analysis conceptualised CliChAP as a subsystem, generating novelty in a wider system, concerned with socio-ecological co-evolution. Constraining/enabling conditions at the time dealing with political legitimacy and conceptual integration were observed as potential catalysts for innovation in research management towards better handling of uncertainty as a social process using systemic thinking in practice (StiP).


Wicked problems Research management Boundary critique Science-policy practice Socio-ecological co-evolution 



Acknowledgement goes to members of the Victorian Government Ministry who supported this work and those who have participated in the research. Some funding and administrative support was provided by Monash University.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scion, Forestry Research InstituteChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Applied Systems Thinking in Practice GroupThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK
  3. 3.Centre for Regional & Rural Futures, Faculty of Science Engineering & Built EnvironmentDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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