Logistics demonstrations as a participatory research design
Paper in proceedings, 2017
Purpose: Relevance and impact -- i.e. advancing practice -- of research has become increasingly important recently. This is shown, first, by the trend among research funding agencies to favour research projects with high technology readiness level, entailing a strong focus on demonstration of certain artifacts. Second, the logistics discipline advocates increased use of participatory research designs. Third, there is an increased focus on “supply chain” as level of analysis; extending the system boundaries for analysis to address complex problems, and include the view of actors to a larger extent in their investigations. In order to advancing practice in research, scholars within the logistics and SCM discipline can make use of demonstrations as research method, although demonstrations is not well developed as a research design. The purpose of this paper is therefore to explain how demonstrations can be used as research design, in this paper illustrated by demonstrations within the domain of logistics/SCM.
Research Approach: A framework for using demonstration as research design was developed based on (1) related literature on action research and (2) learning from two demonstrations of new waterway logistics solutions. Data have been collected at all stages of the demonstrations; notes from planning meetings, smaller investigations shaping the design of the demonstrations, interviews with involved actors, observations and video recording during demonstrations, as well as notes from captains’ logbooks. In order to underpin the framework, the demonstrations have been analysed with respect to both the process of designing, performing and evaluating the demonstrations as well as the understanding generated from the demonstrations regarding how to make use of more waterway shipping in the studied contexts.
Findings and Originality: The outcome of the paper is a framework that describes a recipe for undertaking demonstration research, conceptualized into three main stages; (1) the design phase; (2) data collection and analysis; (3) the path from demonstration towards scaling up the demonstration to a commercialized new system. The framework hence adds to existing action research literature by describing how to use demonstrations as a participatory research design.
Research Impact: The framework developed in this paper is based on demonstrations of new waterway concepts, and could serve as starting point for demonstrations as research design within other contexts as well; having either a system innovation or technical development as point of departure.
Practical Impact: A strength of the demonstration as participatory research design lies in its intermediate nature; overlapping with both the current system as well as a new system. A demonstration is something tangible for involved actors to reflect upon, creating relevant actor networks, joint experiences, and allowing for learning among all involved actors of important parameters in the design of, as well as the path towards a new system in the future.