This paper develops an appreciative method for the management and regulation of integrative research. It distinguishes product from process and emphasizes the value of processes. In human systems, historical events (states) sometimes change the balance of probabilities so that processes are never the same again. Many historical events are manifest as changing beliefs that lead to new behaviours. This irreversible change (innovation) often begins with an increase in the epistemic openness or appreciative setting of communities. As knowledge is exploited, however, appreciative settings become fixed; beliefs are ‘locked-in’ or reified and recognizable epistemic communities form. Integrative research (i) involves two or more epistemic communities, often with mutually irreconcilable beliefs and (ii) requires small, well-managed, ephemeral groups and sympathetic regulation. Institutional constraints are explored with reference to national and supranational research agencies and their practices. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.