Call for Contributions: CoDesign Special Issue on Understanding, Capturing and Assessing Value in Collaborative Design Research

How can we understand. describe and evidence the value collaborative Design Research brings to the world?
Call for Contributions: CoDesign Special Issue on Understanding, Capturing and Assessing Value in Collaborative Design Research

Deadline for 1000-1500 outlines: 30th June 2017

In this special issue, we seek to discuss how the value of design research programmes (Binder & Redström, 2006) can be understood, communicated, and inform work as it progresses. Funders typically evaluate research according to impact that can be readily described in economic or societal terms. Whilst this indeed demonstrates value, it does not completely capture forms of value that collaborative design research produces, because often they are less amenable to measurement or do not produce quantifiable results within or soon after the funded period.

International reviews recognise the importance of research evaluation and the challenges of measuring social and economic impact (European Commission, 2010; Go8 & ATN, 2012). For example, reviews of the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) highlight the limitations of tying the evaluation of impact to research outputs (Stern, 2016), and the challenges assessors face in evaluating distributed and diffuse impacts from research activities (Watermeyer & Hedgecoe, 2016). The future of research assessment is expected to remain focused on demonstrable impact, yet there is recognition that existing evaluation methodologies are limited as research activity and its consequences move further from the academy and into communities (Hill, 2016).

This trajectory affects many disciplines, but has particular relevance to design research. Design research is apt to be collaborative, involving diverse stakeholder groups and forms of knowledge, leading to outcomes that range in nature from discrete products and services, to new experiences, processes and infrastructures. This diversity and connectedness is a core strength of the discipline, but also a challenge in articulating its value to assessors, and indeed to the discipline of design research itself. There is an acute need to consider how collaborative design research understands and captures the value it offers to the world, addressing the demand for articulating quantifiable value without losing the distinctive theoretical and practical resources design research has to offer society.

Alternatives to existing measures of economic and societal value have been proposed. Crossick & Kaszynska (2016) propose that the value of arts and culture is better understood in terms of personal affect (e.g. developing reflective, innovative and creative individuals, and engaged citizens), and suggest an opportunity for formative and participatory evaluation throughout creative work to help organisations and practitioners learn from their work.

Economic or societal impact is also often attempted through engagements between academic researchers and industrial, public sector, and community partners. Here, Upton, Vallance, & Goddard (2014) criticise evaluations focussed on outcomes (products, publications etc.) as unsuitable for encouraging such ‘knowledge exchange,’ and instead propose an evaluation of process.

These issues and debates highlight the importance of considering collaborative design research value beyond outcomes-based impact, to include personal affect and process. We invite authors to consider, illustrate and reflect upon the practical and conceptual challenges and opportunities of understanding design research value. We invited authors to respond to the following issues and questions:

Conceptions of value in collaborative design research

  • What forms of value are most relevant to design research?
  • How can value that is distributed socially, organisationally and temporally be understood?
  • How can understandings of value respond to co-produced and emergent forms of knowledge?

Practical problems of identifying and capturing the value of collaborative design research

  • How has the effect and value of design and design research been successfully (or unsuccessfully) captured in existing work?
  • How might emergent, diffuse, infrastructural and dynamic forms of value be meaningfully captured?
  • What are the ethical implications of identifying and capturing the effect of design research?

Assessing value in collaborative design research

  • Given constraints on the time and expertise of assessors (Watermeyer & Hedgecoe, 2016), what forms of evidence could equip evaluators with the tools needed to understand value?
  • How have assessment methodologies been meaningfully employed, and what new research has this enabled?
  • How can assessment account for new and disruptive forms of knowledge and value?


Full call: