Creating a Collaborative Research Report in Theology: The Process
The writing of collaborative research reports on specific theological issues will include the following steps:
- WICR staff seeks out and invites academic to be members of the expert panel (henceforth PMs), on the basis of their recognized expertise on the topic at hand.
- WICR staff invites volunteers from among the PMs to constitute a smaller Core Committee (henceforth CC) of no more than 10 academics. The CC will include no more than two researchers from WICR to coordinate it.
- PMs (including those volunteering for the CC):
a. identify the key questions to be addressed;
b. provide what they believe are the correct answers and add, whenever possible, key relevant publications to support those conclusions. If possible, the bibliography should be annotated, i.e. each entry should provide a concise summary or abstract of the relevant arguments to be found in that publication;
- On the basis of that initial material, the CC prepares a short draft summary of the main differing positions on those key questions, to be used as a basis for developing the report.
- The draft is open to editing by the wider academic community of the relevant discipline(s). Academics are invited personally or via the academic associations they are members of.
- Academics continue the process initiated by PMs, and have a set time for doing so – e.g. 2 months.
- After that period, the CC revises and edits the contributions of academic participants. PMs are also welcome to participate in that process to the extent that they have the time and inclination to do so. The process will stop when CC members deem that consensus has been achieved.
- Should the CC disagree with one or the other of the arguments put forward by a substantial number of academic contributors, they should either consult academics who are experts on that specific problem or, if the issue at stake is not terribly technical, invite a vote by the academics who have been contributing so far to see what the majority of them thinks, and how big that majority is.
- The CC develops the text of the final report from the material gathered so far.
- Should the academic consensus be split fairly evenly between two or more different conclusions, the report can highlight the lack of unanimity and, if need be, make it clear where the weight of evidence tends to be.
- WICR staff seeks signatures from the contributors and the wider academic community.