The complex politics of relevance in geography

Lynn A. Staeheli, Don Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


As a discipline, geographers have debated what it means to make research relevant. In this article, we argue that the issue of what makes research relevant cannot be separated from the questions of why research should be relevant, how research becomes relevant, the goals of research, and for whom it is intended to be relevant. In this sense, the determination of relevance is a social and political process. We make this point through an evaluation of various writings on relevance, editorials that have appeared in the Newsletter of the Association of American Geographers, and through interviews with researchers. We argue that relevance can be intended, but that commitment to relevant research requires a long-term view and an appreciation for the indirect pathways of relevance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-372
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Ethics
  • Knowledge construction
  • Relevance
  • Social studies of science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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