Research Collaboration on Farmer Decision-Making

Our research on farmer decision-making considers the socio-political factors that enable or constrain the ability of smallholder farmers to take up new ideas and technologies in the pursuit of a good life.

We seek to re-imagine the way that farmers are supported through the practice of agricultural extension by taking a ‘relational’ approach. Such an approach starts with recognising the networks of relations between people and things that span across space and time and within which farmers are embedded. Relationships of debt, of trust, of fear. Relationships related to a person’s position within a household or a community. Relationships with land and the environment.

We are particularly interested in what we term ‘enabling’ or ‘constraining’ relationships. What are the relationships that enable smallholder farmers to take risks, try new things, and adopt new practices? And what are the relationships that constrain them from doing this?

We are interested in understanding if the practice of agricultural extension can support (or even build) enabling relations and address constraining ones. Can a new model of agricultural extension that starts with an understanding of social relations support the uptake of sustainable agricultural practices and help farmers adapt and respond to change? This is what we hope to find out.


We draw on several approaches to examine and understand the complex web of relations between entities (human and non-human) that enable farmers, their families, and communities to thrive including:

  • Political ecology
  • Community economies
  • Social capital
  • Participatory methods
  • Social networks
  • Asset-Based Community Development
  • Participatory Learning and Action

Ways of Working

We are a diverse, cross-cultural, multidisciplinary team of social and agricultural scientists and practitioners. Our backgrounds stretch across academia, government and non-governmental organisations, and research institutes. Our research collaborations purposefully draw together people with unique competencies and expertise in order to work together on a shared objective. We undertake collaborations while acknowledging that individuals and organisations will have different interests, resources, and pressures. We see this as both a strength and a challenge and we are guided by a set of principles around how we work together and with others.

Team Principles

1. Research ethics and integrity

Team members are committed to ethical research practices and ensuring research integrity.

  • Research will be conducted following the Human ethics approval provided by the University of Melbourne. Research team members are required to follow the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and the University of Melbourne Research Integrity and Misconduct Policy.
  • Research will be guided by the principles of research integrity, including:
    • Honesty in all aspects of research;
    • Accountability in the conduct of research;
    • Professional courtesy and fairness in working with others; and
    • Good stewardship of research on behalf of others.
  • As the project will be working with vulnerable populations (i.e., smallholder farmers) and in a research-for-development context, team members are committed to working beyond compliance with University ethics and through consultation with research partners in Cambodia. Our aim is to tailor research approaches that suit the local context and that provide benefits for those in NW Cambodia.

2. Fair and beneficial research

Team members are committed to careful reflection on fairness and equity in all elements of their work, and operate under the principles of:

  • ‘Do No Harm’;
  • Maximise benefits and minimise risks to participants and researchers (e.g., ‘no survey without services’);
  • Fair distribution of benefits and minimisation of risks.

3. Respectful relationships

Team members are committed to providing a respectful and safe working environment for researchers, partners, and participants, by:

  • Ensuring that everyone participating in the project is treated as autonomous and has access to information to make fully informed decisions
  • Creating a safe space for discussion and decision-making without judgment or criticism
    Learning to listen and hear, including listening to those that are often marginalised or silenced and respecting different perspectives and values
  • Having a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour (such as bullying, sexual harassment or other inappropriate behaviour)

4. Genuine Partnerships

Team members are committed to developing genuine partnerships as part of the research collaboration by:

  • Allocating time and effort to building strong working relationships with people who come from different cultures, value systems and/or types of organisation (who only rarely (if ever) meet face to face).
  • Respecting each person/partner organisation’s priorities/needs and valuing what each partner brings
  • Long-term commitment of human, material and financial resources needed for successful collaboration
  • Knowledge and skills transfer between individuals and organisations

5. Acknowledging power relations

Team members will take a reflexive approach to acknowledging and addressing power relations involved in the research processes and outcomes by:

    • Fostering a reflexive and inclusive research environment that remains critical of changing power relations within the research team as well as in relation to research participants
    • Explicitly acknowledging researchers and practitioner’s positionalities and objectives

Reducing power imbalances by promoting community participation and ensuring that researchers and participants’ knowledge contributions are fully acknowledged

6. Innovation

Team members are committed to innovation in the pursuit of a new understanding and model of agricultural extension by:

  • Learning to unlearn and do things differently, even if it feels hard, uncomfortable, confusing, or goes against our formal education or training
  • Taking calculated risks and being willing to try, fail and learn from our mistakes

Communicating our Research

We believe that the findings from publicly funded research should be shared in a timely and accessible manner to foster social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits. There are four main principles that guide us when publishing research:

1. Disseminating research findings as widely as possible

The research collaboration is committed to disseminating research findings to relevant audiences through appropriate languages, channels and media. This includes translation into local language(s), non-text media (e.g. images, video, and performances), policy briefs, and plain language summaries, in addition to traditional academic publications (i.e. journal articles, book chapters and conferences).

2. Breaking down barriers to accessing information and knowledge

The research collaboration is committed to ensuring research outputs are accessible for those who are likely to benefit from the research. Where possible, open access publishing will be used. This can take two main forms:

  1. Open Access Publishing (The Gold Road): Where possible, project team members are encouraged to publish in open access journals, whether using a hybrid, delayed or fully open access model
  2. Institutional and Disciplinary Repositories (The Green Road): Project team members are encouraged to deposit post peer-reviewed and corrected versions of their published research in appropriate institutional or disciplinary repositories.

3. Increasing research uptake and impact

Team members are encouraged to identify high-quality, reputable journals, publishers and conferences that are recognised for their quality, reach and accessibility for key audiences. These may be academic and/or practitioner focussed, depending on the target audience and likelihood of maximising uptake and impact. Additional knowledge translation and brokering activities may be needed to increase research uptake and impact and it is the responsibility of team members to identify, plan and implement these activities.

4. Appropriate acknowledgment of authorship:

Authorship is about credit and accountability. Researchers are encouraged to talk about authorship with all those involved in the research early and often. An authorship agreement form may be used to facilitate discussions and record agreement about authorship. Authorship will draw on University of Melbourne guidelines and will be:

  • an honest reflection of contribution to research
  • assigned fairly and consistently
  • communicated clearly and transparently
  • approached with generosity while remaining true to requirements

Where appropriate, the project team will draw on the Contributor Role Taxonomy (CRediT) when acknowledging authorship, recognising the many ways project team members and others may contribute to publications.

Contributor Role Taxonomy (CRediT)

Term Definition
Conceptualization Ideas; formulation or evolution of overarching research goals and aims
Methodology Development or design of methodology; creation of models
Software Programming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components
Validation Verification, whether as a part of the activity or separate, of the overall replication/ reproducibility of results/experiments and other research outputs
Formal analysis Application of statistical, mathematical, computational, or other formal techniques to analyze or synthesize study data
Investigation Conducting a research and investigation process, specifically performing the experiments, or data/evidence collection
Resources Provision of study materials, reagents, materials, patients, laboratory samples, animals, instrumentation, computing resources, or other analysis tools
Data Curation Management activities to annotate (produce metadata), scrub data and maintain research data (including software code, where it is necessary for interpreting the data itself) for initial use and later reuse
Writing – Original Draft Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically writing the initial draft (including substantive translation)
Writing – Review & Editing Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work by those from the original research group, specifically critical review, commentary or revision – including pre-or postpublication stages
Visualization Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically visualization/ data presentation
Supervision Oversight and leadership responsibility for the research activity planning and execution, including mentorship external to the core team
Project administration Management and coordination responsibility for the research activity planning and execution
Funding acquisition Acquisition of the financial support for the project leading to this publication

* Brand, A., Allen, L., Altman, M., Hlava, M., & Scott, J. (2015). Beyond authorship: Attribution, contribution, collaboration, and credit. Learned Publishing, 28, 151155. https://doi.org/10.1087/2015 0211