Insights into interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in India and Brazil

By Marcel Bursztyn and Seema Purushothaman

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1. Marcel Bursztyn (biography)
2. Seema Purushothaman (biography)

How are interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity faring in India and Brazil? How do they differ from interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in the Global North? Are there particular lessons to be drawn from India and Brazil for the global interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary communities?

India and Brazil are among the most prominent countries of the Global South in the worldwide academic scene. Both have problems in common, but they have also singularities.

The focus in both countries at the institutional level tends to be on what is referred to as interdisciplinarity. The emergence of a new generation of liberal universities and other academic institutions open to interdisciplinary scholarship has allowed a small cohort of interdisciplinary scholars to emerge.

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Ten dialogue methods for integrating judgments

By David McDonald, Gabriele Bammer and Peter Deane

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1. David McDonald (biography)
2. Gabriele Bammer (biography)
3. Peter Deane (biography)

What formal dialogue methods can assist researchers in synthesising judgments about a complex societal or environmental issue when a range of parties with different perspectives are involved? How can researchers decide which methods will be most suitable for their purposes?

We review ten dialogue methods. Our purpose is not to describe the dialogue methods in detail, but instead to review the circumstances in which each method is likely to be most useful in a research context, bearing in mind that most methods a) were not developed for research, b) can be applied flexibly and c) have evolved into different variations.

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Three lessons for community engagement in international research

By Aysha Fleming

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Aysha Fleming (biography)

What’s required for researchers to effectively engage with local communities in international research tackling complex socio-ecological problems?

In a project involving Indonesian and Australian researchers working with local communities to restore peatlands in Indonesia, we identified three key elements for international collaboration with stakeholders:

  1. project design
  2. individual and collective skills and competencies
  3. processes to support knowledge integration.

Project design

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Collaboration agreement template

By L. Michelle Bennett, Edgar Cardenas and Michael O’Rourke

1. L. Michelle Bennett (biography)
2. Edgar Cardenas (biography)
2. Michael O’Rourke (biography)

As scientific research continues to move towards collaborative knowledge production, scientists must become more adept at working in teams. How can teams improve their chances of collaboration success? What is a good way to facilitate dialogue about shared values, norms and processes of collaboration? Are there ways of anticipating, identifying, and addressing obstacles as they arise?

We have designed a collaboration agreement template to assist teams in:

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A process for generating new cross-disciplinary projects

By Gemma Jiang

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Gemma Jiang (biography)

What is a good way for researchers in large cross-disciplinary science initiatives, who may not know each other well, to generate viable project ideas?

This blog post introduces a field-tested “double helix” process that leverages the benefits of idea generation by a large group and idea refinement in small groups.

This double helix process is most helpful in large cross-disciplinary science initiatives that meet at least one of the following three characteristics:

  • Tackling wicked problems with both scientific and societal significance
  • Requiring deep integration across multiple disciplines that will eventually lead to new meta-disciplines
  • Consisting of more than 20 core research members.

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i2Insights as a repository

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

How is Integration and Implementation Insights (i2Insights) shaping up as a repository of resources useful for tackling complex societal and environmental problems?

i2Insights has two major purposes:

  1. connecting a community of researchers to each other, and
  2. building a repository or knowledge bank of resources.

i2Insights has set out to achieve both purposes using the format of blog, with short, easy-to-read contributions from researchers located anywhere in the world, and with encouragement to peers to comment. We have sought to summarise these purposes in the tagline for i2S:

A community blog providing research resources for understanding and acting on complex real-world problems

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Ignorance: Vocabulary and taxonomy

By Michael Smithson

Michael Smithson
Michael Smithson (biography)

How can we better understand ignorance? In the 1980s I proposed the view that ignorance is not simply the absence of knowledge, but is socially constructed and comes in different kinds (Smithson, 1989). Here I present a brief overview of that work, along with some key subsequent developments.

Defining ignorance

Let’s begin with a workable definition of ignorance and then work from there to a taxonomy of types of ignorance. Our definition will have to deal both with simple lack of knowledge but also incorrect ideas. It will also have to deal with the fact that if one is attributing ignorance to someone, the ignoramus may be a different person or oneself.

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Understanding diversity primer: 10. Advanced considerations

By Gabriele Bammer

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Once researchers have a basic understanding of various types of diversity and their impacts on researching complex societal and environmental problems, what else is it useful for them to know? How can we move towards effective ways of incorporating more diversity into research?

It is important to recognize that, while the principle of increasing diversity is admirable, putting it into practice is hard, time-consuming and risky. Increasing diversity by embedding newcomers into existing teams or establishing new teams requires time and effort to reach new understandings and ways of working to ensure that no-one is marginalized or discounted, and to resolve miscommunications and disagreements.

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Analysing key policy actors with the alignment, interest and influence matrix (AIIM)

By Enrique Mendizabal

enrique-mendizabal
Enrique Mendizabal (biography)

How can researchers seeking to change a policy get a useful picture of the key actors involved in that policy space? Who should they partner with? Who will need convincing? Whose arguments will counter their own?

The Alignment, Interest and Influence Matrix (AIIM) was designed to address these questions.

The AIIM tool is useful as far as it can encourage an open and thoughtful conversation. In my experience, the tool is most useful when the people involved provide a breadth of experience and insight into the policy process that they are trying to affect.

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Understanding diversity primer: 9. Team roles

By Gabriele Bammer

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What is the range of roles that members of a team need to cover in order for the team to be effective? What strengths and weaknesses are associated with each role?

Teamwork is common in research on complex societal and environmental problems. The Belbin team roles identify nine clusters of skills that need to be included within a team for it to be most effective. An individual can bring more than one cluster of skills to the team, with most people having two or three Belbin team roles that they are comfortable with.

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Clarifying incentives and expectations in research collaborations

By Alisa Zomer and Varja Lipovsek

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1. Alisa Zomer (biography)
2. Varja Lipovsek (biography)

In which areas do research collaborations between academics and practitioners often run into trouble? What difficult questions can we ask ourselves and our partners at the outset of a research collaboration that can set us up for a successful partnership? How can we learn from past successful and failed aspects of research partnerships?

In our experience four areas where collaborations can have problems are:

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Understanding diversity primer: 8. Personality

By Gabriele Bammer

primer_diversity_8_personalityWhat is a useful way of understanding personality and why is it important? How could personality affect how problems are framed, understood and responded to? How does personality affect how well those contributing to the research work together?

Personality is one of the most evident ways in which people differ. A useful way of coming to terms with this aspect of diversity is to focus on traits that predict behaviour. The HEXACO model is considered to be valid across cultures and focuses on 6 traits:

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