All issues involving social systems are multi-dimensional (i.e. have a psychological, cultural, economic, political, technological, ecological, biological and physical dimension) and span levels (e.g. planetary, international, national, institutional, organisational, community, individual, physiological, cellular, physical). Rarely can one dismiss one of the dimension or levels as being too insignificant to the issue under consideration.
The failure to contextualise a research issue is a serious error from a systemic philosophy of science perspective, even if acceptable by conventional philosophy of science. Most of the proposals during the colloquium would have benefitted by such a contextualisation.
Contextualisation of research refers to using systemic frameworks to identify multiple causation and multiple impacts associated with the topic of research, as well as frameworks and systemic organising principles for redesigning multiple strategies to (dis)solve problems. Systemic frameworks could also guide the literature search, making it more complete.
Generic contextualisation is based on considering the research issue within transdisciplinary frameworks and organising principles (e.g. that of a meta-systems theory).
Specific contextualisation requires the consideration and / or involvement of stakeholders. The underlying systemic principle is that a system has most knowledge about its own situation and in interaction with other systems creates knowledge relevant to itself. Involving stakeholders in knowledge generation acknowledges that they have unique knowledge relevant to the research issue and that this needs to be considered in the research. This does not imply losing focus in research as it is not any odd knowledge that is tapped from a stakeholder, but only that which is relevant to the research issue, whereby relevance is initially determined by the stakeholder. Later in the research, as all stakeholder perspectives are considered and integrated, the researcher determines relevance for the issue under consideration, based on the generic systemic frameworks and principles.
I observed during the PhD colloquium that some promoters were not familiar with systemic concepts and methodologies and resisted them. Their argument was that the student should focus on a specific issue and not be sidetracked by contextualisation, instead of understanding that it gives rise to new knowledge from synthesis.