Background and rationale
The ECOBROKER professional network is a ‘marketplace for research ideas’. This is an essential tool for transdisciplinary research that allows linking projects and activities that can benefit from mutual support. It aims to allow participants in the network to discuss ideas and approaches bilaterally or in small groups as they see fit by highlighting common interests and desire to solve problems. This will promote 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 what research-based knowledge is required to address those questions, how past insights from research can be used and therefore what new research is needed to support decision making. At each of these steps, dialogue between practitioners and appropriate researchers is extremely beneficial. 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. The UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere (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. 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 transdisciplinary research and provides a well-integrated, high quality evidence base for decision making.
The ECOBROKER professional network is facilitating 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 transdisciplinary 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 the ECOBROKER network 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. EU Horizon 2020) research funding calls, thus potentially unlocking research funding that can directly support local social and environmental problem solving.