The agriculture research group on sustainability programme: a longitudinal and transdisciplinary study of agricultural sustainability in New Zealand
Campbell, H.; Fairweather, John R.; Manhire, J.; Saunders, Caroline M.; Moller, H.; Reid, J.; Benge, J.; Blackwell, G.; Carey, Peter; Emanuelsson, M.; Greer, Glen; Hunt, Lesley M.; Lucock, D.; Rosin, C.; Norton, D.; MacLeod, C.; Knight, B.
This report provides an overview of the key design features of the Agriculture Research Group on Sustainability (ARGOS) programme. This ongoing long-term research project started in 2003, involving a group of around 20 social scientists, ecologists, economists, and farm management experts in New Zealand. The overarching mission of ARGOS is to understand the enablers and barriers to the sustainability and resilience of agriculture, so as to enhance New Zealand’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing. To achieve this mission, the ARGOS team has designed and implemented a well-replicated and long-term programme of longitudinal research on more than 100 whole working farms, across different agricultural sectors, comparing a wide range of variables between three different farming systems: conventional, integrated management (IM) and organic. The first funded phase of this research programme has taken a systems and transdisciplinary approach, with an emphasis on statistical rigour and standardisation of methods, structured around the basic null hypothesis that there are no differences between the three farming systems. The primary focus of this approach is to examine the efficacy of alternative quality assurance (QA) schemes in delivering sustainable outcomes. This working paper seeks to inform potential collaborators and other interested parties about the way the ARGOS research programme has been structured, and to describe the rationale for this design. To this end, the report first documents the formation of the ARGOS group and the development of the aims and basic features of the design of the first funded phase of the research programme. The process of selection of agricultural sectors and individual farms within those sectors is described, along with the rationale behind this selection process. We then describe the key objectives of the research programme, and the way these were approached by research teams from different disciplines. The importance of transdisciplinarity is then discussed, providing insight into the associated benefits and pitfalls, and the lessons that were learned in the process of designing and implementing a transdisciplinary research programme. Finally, we discuss a number of issues surrounding the key features of our study design, evaluating their respective benefits and costs, and describe the future research directions suggested by the findings of the first phase of the programme.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsagricultural sustainability; research programme; transdisciplinary study; longitudinal study; evaluation
Fields of Research070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development
- ARGOS publications 
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