Important dates

Announcement of pre-conference workshops
28 July 2017
Abstract notification to authors
28 July 2017
Early bird registration deadline
7 September 2017
Accommodation booking deadline
22 September 2017
Pre-conference workshops
23 October 2017
24–26 October 2017
Post-conference activity
27 October 2017

Gold sponsors

Welcome to the 2017 International Realist Conference

Twenty years ago, Ray Pawson and Nick Tilley published the seminal text, ‘Realistic Evaluation’. Pointing out that evaluating an initiative provided no reliable information about whether its effects would be the same if extended to a different location or group, they posed a new central question: “What works for whom in what circumstances, and how?”

That insight underpinned methodological developments including realist review (the realist form of systematic literature review), rapid realist review (developed with the intent to provide more timely findings for policy makers), international standards for realist evaluation and for realist review, and the adaptation of specific methods to suit particular investigations. Together, these developments have shifted the terrain in research and evaluation, for those who do research and evaluation and those who commission and use it.

Right from that first text, a central premise, and promise, has been that realist approaches would be useful for policy and programs. By increasing understanding of how, when and why policies and programs do and do not work, policy makers and practitioners would be better able to select appropriate approaches for particular contexts, and to adapt their policies and programs to different contexts. 

Now that we have had 20 years to translate that promise into practice, we want the posters and presentations at this conference to answer realist questions about realist methods.

In what circumstances and for whom have realist methods been useful, in what respects, and why? In what contexts have they not proved useful, and why?  How do the specific methods we use in our research or evaluation contribute (or not) to their use? What new developments or methods would further support their use?

To answer these questions, we want to welcome realist researchers, evaluators, theorists and methodologists of all descriptions, but also those who are commissioning realist work and those who are using it to inform practice and policy.

Our hope is that building this understanding will support the next phase in the development and refinement of the methods, and of support for those who use them. 

On behalf of the Northern Institute and Charles Darwin University, who are auspicing this conference, we invite you to join us in this important venture and look forward to welcoming you to Brisbane.

Emma Williams and Gill Westhorp
Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University
Conference Co-chairs

Emma Williams Gill Westhorp

Who should attend?

  • Those practising – or wanting to know more about – realist evaluation, realist synthesis and other kinds of realist research
  • Those commissioning realist work, or using realist findings – service providers and policy officers in both government and non-government sectors
  • PhD students and supervisors
  • Evaluators and researchers – in house, independent, and academic
  • Program managers and other staff with responsibilities in evaluation
  • People designing new policies and programs


NOTE: IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU CHECK YOUR VISA REQUIREMENTS WELL IN ADVANCE OF YOUR DEPARTURE DATE. Please see the General information page for further information about visas.