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Sarah Cornell, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm, Sweden Jenneth Parker, the Schumacher Institute, Bristol, UK O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc Rising to the Synthesis Challenge: Knowing what is known in interdisciplinary research programs
Research synthesis: reflecting on research achievements, reviewing the state of the art, contextualizing new insights, and exploring how best to present the expanded field of knowledge to the diverse stakeholders of the research. O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc
Institutional Structures Individual and Group Identities Teaching and Learning Research Capacity The structures and processes of interdisciplinary knowledge communities differ from those of single-discipline research. O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc These issues interact in ways that can create either vicious or virtuous circles affecting research success.
Developing collaboration capacity across institutions Geography of institutes (departmental divisions, etc) Roles of executive, directors of research, department heads Career incentives Institutional Structures Research Capacity Developing interdisciplinary research capacity in individuals, centres These structural aspects of interdisciplinary research have therefore been given considerable attention, in many parts of the world. For example: USA - COSEPUP, Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research. #toc. #toc European Union – EU Research Advisory Board, Interdisciplinarity in Research. dex_en.html. dex_en.html O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc Society’s contemporary knowledge needs are urgent.
Individual and Group Identities Teaching and Learning There is still not enough attention to the processes and experiences of interdisciplinary knowledge synthesis. The challenges of linking different knowledge communities and negotiating and transforming the knowledge “products” are often underestimated. O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc But…
Disciplinary language, norms, and ethics Individual and Group Identities Understanding hierarchies among disciplines Philosophies of disciplinary knowledge Interdisciplinary synthesis does not mean reduction to the terms of the most powerful discipline Interdisciplinary synthesis requires collective attention to the similarities and differences among contributory disciplines. It demands shared expectations and collaborative working habits – both of which evolve over time. It requires sensitivity to conflicting personal and institutional priorities, and the misunderstandings that arise with different disciplinary “languages”. Good synthesis must also address, not dismiss, the philosophical and methodological underpinnings of the contributing research. O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc
‘Quality standards’ for inter-disciplinary postgraduate education and supervision Teaching and Learning Guidance on interdisciplinary T&L Learning approaches to interdisciplinarity Interdisciplinary synthesis is fundamentally about learning – individual and institutional. Learning is often an unsettling experience. It requires the existing basis of knowledge to be challenged and transformed. Experienced researchers – experts in their own fields – may find interdisciplinary learning especially hard. Good synthesis activities often benefit from explicit “participant protocols” that assure respect and mutuality. O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc
Our interdisciplinary frame for discussion of interdisciplinary research Philosophy and methodology: knowledge integration requires attention to the epistemological presumptions in research questions and measures of success. This helps build adequate knowledge foundations for the “deep interdisciplinarity” that bridges biophysical and social sciences and humanities. The sociology of interdisciplinary working: engagement across different knowledge communities highlights issues of language, power, politics, and identity, and requires the building of a group ethos of collaboration and mutual respect. Learning theory: it can be helpful to understand and manage research teams as mutual learning groups. In big research programs, it is useful to identify at the outset that the required skills and capabilities will change through the research process. O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc
Knowledge integration Development of philosophical foundations and framing Methodological coherence Effective evaluation Shared learning A process that requires time, attention, resource and collective reflection Community integration Institutional structures Shared language and practices Shared norms and ethics Social and policy context Our “virtuous circle” process O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc
Further Reading Cornell et al. (2013) Opening up knowledge systems for better responses to global environmental change. p in Environmental Science & Policy Vol 28. Special Issue: Responding to the Challenges of our Unstable Earth (RESCUE), Guest Editor J. Jäger. All SI articles accessible from Parker, J. ‘Competencies in Interdisciplinarity for Sustainable Development in Higher Education’ in The International Journal for Sustainability in Higher Education, Emerald, (2010). Bhaskar et al (2010) Interdisciplinarity and Climate Change: transforming knowledge and practice for our global future, (2010), Routledge: London O'Rourke, Enhancing Communication & Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research © 2014 SAGE Publications Inc
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