Can mapping mental models improve research implementation?

By Katrin Prager

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Katrin Prager (biography)

We all have different mental models of the environment and the people around us. They help us make sense of what we experience. In a recent project exploring how to improve soil management (PDF 250KB), Michiel Curfs and I used data collected from Spanish farmers and our own experience to develop and compare the mental model of a typical Spanish farmer growing olives with that of a hypothetical scientist. How did their mental models of soil degradation differ? Mainly in terms of understanding the role of ploughing, and the importance of drivers for certain soil management activities. There were only a few areas of overlap: both scientist and farmer were concerned about fire risk and acknowledged weeds. We emphasise the importance of two-way communication, and recommend starting by focusing on areas of overlap and then moving to areas that are different. Without integrating understandings from both mental models, the scientist will carry on making recommendations for reducing soil degradation that the farmer cannot implement or does not find relevant.

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Supporting academics’ learning to design, teach and research transdisciplinary programs in higher education: What’s the state of play?

By Tanja Golja and Dena Fam

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Tanja Golja’s biography
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Dena Fam (biography)

In their 2013 report on the significance of transdisciplinary approaches to advance scientific discovery and address formidable societal challenges (PDF 700KB), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) put out a call to “expand education paradigms to model transdisciplinary approaches” (p. xiii). Ought we be considering whether transdisciplinary approaches might reconfigure education paradigms, and if so, why?

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The promise of using similar methods across disciplines

By Allison Metz

Alison Metz
Allison Metz (biography)

Interdisciplinarity has the potential to broaden and deepen our understanding and application of methods and tools to address complex challenges. When we embrace interdisciplinarity we broaden what we know about the potential methods for assessing and tackling problems, and we deepen our understanding of specific methods by applying these methods across different contexts. In my pursuit to understand co-creative processes by interconnected stakeholders – i.e., the deep and authentic engagement of stakeholders across governance, science, and community boundaries to identify and optimize the use of evidence for positive outcomes – I have been influenced by methods used outside of my discipline of implementation science and current context of child welfare services. For example, I recently read an article that studied the co-production of knowledge in soils governance (Prager & McKee, 2015) in the United Kingdom and was struck by the usefulness of these ideas for child welfare services in the United States.

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Where to publish? Journals for research integration and implementation concepts, methods and processes

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

If you have developed a new dialogue method for bringing together insights from different disciplinary experts and stakeholders, or a refined modelling technique for taking uncertainty into account, or an innovative process for knowledge co-creation with government policy makers, where can you publish these to get maximum exposure and uptake?

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Practicality In Complexity (reblogged)

Three points in this blog post by Nora Bateson resonate:

1. The idea of “catching the rhythm” of the “patterns of movement” in our constantly changing world.
2. More effectively taking context into account.
3. “We cannot know the systems, but we can know more. We cannot perfect the systems, but we can do better.”

The challenge is to develop methods and processes to better achieve these goals. (Reblogged by Gabriele Bammer)

Reinventing science? From open source to open science

By Alexey Voinov

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Alexey Voinov (biography)

Science is getting increasingly bureaucratized, more and more driven by metrics and indices, which have very little to do with the actual scientific content and recognition among peers. This is actively supported by the still dominant for-profit publication mechanism, which harvests products of scientific research for free, processes, reviews and edits them using voluntary work of scientists themselves and then sells the resulting papers back to the scientific community at obscene costs. The original ideals of scientific pursuit of truth for the sake of the betterment of humanity are diluted and forfeited in the exhausting race for grants, tenure, patents, citations and nominations. Something has to change, especially in the era of post-normal science when so much is at stake, and so little is actually done to address the mounting problems of the environment and society.

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Co-creation, co-design, co-production, co-construction: Same or different?

By Allison Metz

Alison Metz
Allison Metz (biography)

A key topic across disciplines is the authentic engagement and participation of key stakeholders in developing and guiding innovations to solve problems.  Complex systems consist of dense webs of relationships where individual stakeholders self-organize through interactions.  Research demonstrates that successful uptake of innovations requires genuine and meaningful interaction among researchers, service providers, policy makers, consumers, and other key stakeholders. Implementation efforts must address the various needs of these stakeholders.  However, these efforts are described differently across disciplines and contexts – co-design, co-production, co-creation, and co-construction.

Developing consensus on terminology and meanings will facilitate future research and application of “co” concepts. 

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Modelling is the language of scientific discovery

By Steven Gray

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Steven Gray (biography)

Modeling is the language of scientific discovery and has significant implications for how scientists communicate within and across disciplines. Whether modeling the social interactions of individuals within a community in anthropology, the trade-offs of foraging behaviors in ecology, or the influence of warming ocean temperatures on circulation patterns in oceanography, the ability to represent empirical or theoretical understanding through modeling provides scientists with a semi-standardized language to explain how we think the world works. In fact, modeling is such a basic part of human reasoning and communication that the formal practice of scientific modeling has been recently extended to include non-scientists, especially as a way to understand complex and poorly understood socio-environmental dynamics and to improve collaborative research.

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Distinguishing between multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinarity – ‘theological’ hair-splitting or essential categorisation?

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

In a recent special issue of the journal Nature on interdisciplinarity (17 September 2015, p313-315), Rick Rylance criticised “arcane debates about whether research is inter-, multi-, trans-, cross- or post-discipli­nary”, opining “I find this faintly theological hair-splitting unhelpful.” Does he have a point?

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Why set up a blog site before you want to use it? First we need to find each other…

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

The aim of this site is to host a global conversation about… well one of the challenges is that we don’t yet have an agreed name for our topic.

This is a conversation for you if your research does some of the following:

  • Gets people from different disciplines working together
  • Builds models of complex social and environmental problems
  • Helps policy makers use research evidence
  • Figures out ways to manage value conflicts
  • Finds ways to identify unknown unknowns
  • Maps interconnections between problem elements
  • Works with business to build better products
  • Involves community groups in defining the problem
  • Worries about adverse unintended consequences
  • Realises that context matters.

I think about these practices as integration and implementation sciences. You might call them systems thinking, action research, interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity, implementation science, post-normal science, mode 2 research, project management, complex systems science or a host of other terms.

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