Understanding diversity primer: 5. Values

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can differences in values be understood? How do differences in values affect research on complex societal and environmental problems, especially how problems are framed, understood and responded to, as well as how well those contributing to the research work together?

Ten basic personal values

Shalom Schwartz’s theory of basic values (2012) identifies ten broad personal values, which are differentiated by their underlying goal or motivation, as described in the table below. These values seem to be culturally robust.

Overall, each value helps humans cope with one or more of three requirements of existence, namely the needs of:

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Understanding diversity primer: 4. Power

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can an understanding of diversity in power improve research on complex societal and environmental problems? What are the different ways in which diversity in power plays out?

Simply put, there are currently two common ways in which power is taken into account in research on complex societal and environmental problems:

  1. those working with marginalised stakeholders, or otherwise committed to giving everyone involved in the research an equal voice, often seek to eliminate differences in power
  2. those who seek to use their research to change policy or practice generally attempt to find ways to influence those with the power to make those changes.

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Understanding values: Schwartz theory of basic values

By Shalom H. Schwartz

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Shalom H. Schwartz (biography)

Why are values important for tackling complex societal and environmental problems? Can personal values that are robust across cultures be identified? Can these personal values help explain conflicts in values?

Six main features of values

All values have six features in common and these illustrate why values are important in researching and acting on complex problems.

1. Values are beliefs linked inextricably to affect. When values are activated, they become infused with feeling.

2. Values refer to desirable goals that motivate action.

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Understanding diversity primer: 3. Perceptions of good research

By Gabriele Bammer

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How do different perceptions arise of what makes for ‘good’ research? How can researchers come to understand such differences and their impacts on how problems are framed, understood and responded to, as well as how they affect the ability of those contributing to the research to work together?

Differences arise because training in a discipline involves inculcating a specific way of investigating the world, including which types of questions are worth addressing; legitimate ways of gathering, analysing and interpreting data; standards for validation; and the role of values in the research process. Educating someone in a discipline aims to make the discipline’s specific approach to research ingrained and tacit.

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Understanding diversity primer: 2. Mental models

By Gabriele Bammer

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What are mental models and why are they important? How do they affect how problems are framed, understood and responded to? How do they affect how well those contributing to the research work together?

Mental models are a person’s understanding of the world and how it works, and are unique to each person. They exist in a person’s mind as a set of small-scale simplified models about different aspects of reality that are functional but necessarily incomplete.

Mental models apply to all aspects of reality ranging from concrete objects such as a ‘chair;’ to abstract concepts such as ‘trust;’ to geographical locations such as ‘Sydney;’ to connections, interconnections and causal relationships; and to simple and complex situations.

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Understanding diversity primer: 1. Why diversity?

By Gabriele Bammer

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Why do researchers who tackle complex societal and environmental problems need to understand diversity? What kinds of diversity are relevant? What are some good starting points?

Diversity is critical for:

  • developing a more comprehensive understanding of any complex problem, both what is known and what is not known
  • providing a greater range of ideas about addressing the problem, including what may and may not work
  • providing deeper and more effective insights into how the research can support policy and/or practice action to address the problem by government, business and civil society.

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Basic steps for dealing with problematic value pluralism

By Bethany Laursen, Stephen Crowley and Chad Gonnerman

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1. Bethany Laursen (biography)
2. Stephen Crowley (biography)
3. Chad Gonnerman (biography)

Have you ever been part of a team confronting a moral dilemma? Or trying to manage deep disagreements? For that matter, on a more down-to-earth level, how many times has your team tried to settle an agreed file naming convention? Many team troubles arise from value pluralism—members having different values or holding the same values in different ways. Below, we describe problematic value pluralism and suggest steps for dealing with it.

What are values, and how do they cause problems?

Here, we’re talking about a “value” as a desire (conscious or unconscious) that directs a person’s actions. It could be a guiding ideal or a whimsical preference, for example. Most of us have multiple values and over time we have organized them so that they provide us with guidance in most of the situations we encounter.

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Understanding researcher positionality using the insider-outsider continuum

By Rebecca Laycock Pedersen and Varvara Nikulina

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1. Rebecca Laycock Pedersen (biography)
2. Varvara Nikulina (biography)

How can researchers express their positionality? What does positionality mean?

In working at the interface of science and society, researchers play many different roles, even within a single project, as, for example:

As researchers, our role within a project is a part of our ‘positionality,’ or our social position. Positionality as defined by Agar (1996) is whether one sees oneself as an outsider, a ‘neutral’ investigator, or something else.

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A framework for identifying diversity in epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture

By Varvara Nikulina, Johan Larson Lindal, Henrikke Baumann, David Simon, and Henrik Ny

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1. Varvara Nikulina; 2. Johan Larson Lindal; 3. Henrikke Baumann; 4. David Simon; 5. Henrik Ny (biographies)

How can facilitators take into account diversity stemming from epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture when leading workshops aimed at co-production in transdisciplinary research?

Although facilitators are skilled in mitigating conflicting interests and ideas among participants, they are often poorly prepared for dealing with these other types of diversity.

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Navigating intercultural relations in transdisciplinary practice: The partial overlaps framework

By David Ludwig, Vitor Renck & Charbel N. El-Hani

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1. David Ludwig (biography)
2. Vitor Renck (biography)
3. Charbel N. El-Hani (biography)

How can local knowledge be effectively and fairly incorporated in transdisciplinary projects? How can such projects avoid “knowledge mining” and “knowledge appropriation” that recognize marginalized knowledge only where it is convenient for dominant actors and their goals? In addition, how can knowledge integration programs avoid being naive or even harmful by forcing Indigenous people into regimes of knowledge production that continue to be dominated by the perspectives of external researchers?

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Capitalising on incommensurability

By Darryn Reid

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Darryn Reid (biography)

How can we harness incommensurability as a pivotal enabler of cross-disciplinary collaboration?

Effective cross-disciplinary research across multiple traditional disparate fields of study hinges on logical incommensurability, which occurs because, in general, those ideas will have been constructed using incompatible frameworks to solve distinct problem formulations within dissimilar intellectual traditions.

In other words, the internal logical consistency of a discipline’s way of approaching problems is no guarantee of ability to be integrated with another discipline’s way of approaching problems. Incommensurability should come as no surprise to anyone involved in cross-disciplinary activities. What is pivotal here, however, is the view that incommensurability is not an obstacle to be avoided or feared but an enabler.

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Responding to unacknowledged disciplinary differences with the Toolbox dialogue method

By Graham Hubbs, Michael O’Rourke, Steven Hecht Orzack

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1. Graham Hubbs (biography)
2. Michael O’Rourke (biography)
3. Steven Hecht Orzack (biography)

Have you collaborated with people on a complex project and wondered why it is so difficult? Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “Do my collaborators even conceive of the project and its goals in the way I do?” Projects involving collaborators from different disciplines or professions seem almost ready made to generate this kind of bewilderment. Collaborators on cross-disciplinary projects like these often ask different kinds of questions and pursue different kinds of answers.

This confusion can bedevil cross-disciplinary research. The allure of such research is its promise of solving complex problems by bringing together a variety of perspectives that when combined lead to solutions that any one perspective would fail to find. But combining different disciplinary perspectives also requires undertaking the tasks of translating different technical languages, reconciling different methodological preferences, and coordinating different ways of carving up the world. These tasks are difficult and it’s no wonder that cross-disciplinary research often fails to be truly cross-disciplinary.

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