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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The MATRICx: Measuring motivation in science teams

By Gaetano R. Lotrecchiano

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Gaetano R. Lotrecchiano (biography)

What motivates scientists to work in teams? How can we measure motivation? Why should we be concerned about motivation in science teams?

Six domains of motivation for collaboration

Scientists and science stakeholders draw on different motivations to collaborate. The literature has discussed these motivations in different ways:

1. Advancing Science: Motivations to contribute to an agenda or the progression of research and science.

2. Building Relationships: Motivations to utilize resources and/or knowledge to establish or expand connections and one’s network of collaborators.

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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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Enhancing mutual learning in developing a cross-disciplinary team

By Eric Schearer and Gemma Jiang

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1. Eric Schearer (biography)
2. Gemma Jiang (biography)

How can newly forming cross-disciplinary teams develop effective strategies for working together?

We provide lessons from our experience preparing a cross-disciplinary research proposal for which we leant heavily on the mutual learning mindsets and norms which are the central elements for the Team Effectiveness Model for Science (Schwarz and Bennett, 2021). The principal investigator (Schearer) enlisted the help of a leadership consultant (Jiang).

Mutual learning mindsets and norms

As shown in the figure below, mutual learning comprises a mindset, composed of core values and assumptions, plus specific behaviors derived from the mindset that, together, are essential for effective working relationships.

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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 tool for transforming resistance to insights in decision-making

By Gemma Jiang

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Gemma Jiang (biography)

Do you encounter resistance from your team members, especially in regard to difficult decisions? How might decision-making processes be better facilitated to generate insights instead of resistance?

I describe a conceptual framework and an accompanying practical tool from Lewis Deep Democracy (2021) that can transform resistance to insights in decision-making processes.

The conceptual framework: Understanding how decision making generates resistance

It is important first to understand the consciousness of a team. If you think of a team’s consciousness as an iceberg, the ideas and opinions that are expressed are the conscious part above the waterline, while those that are not expressed are the unconscious part below the waterline. If decisions are made based only on the team’s expressed ideas and opinions, those below the waterline will likely form resistance. This is often what happens with “majority rules” democracy.

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Theory and process for interdisciplinary undergraduate course development

By Ana M. Corbacho

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Ana M. Corbacho (biography)

How can interdisciplinary courses for undergraduates move from being intuitively designed to theoretically based? How can course design accommodate cohorts of teachers, not previously experienced in interdisciplinarity, from across a university?

Here I share how colleagues and I developed courses where teams of university faculty worked with undergraduate students to tackle interdisciplinary problems.

I first describe three useful theoretical perspectives for building an interdisciplinary undergraduate course, namely:

  1. social constructivism and situated-learning theory
  2. academic motivation
  3. interdisciplinary education from a diversity perspective.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 6. Making engagement effective

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can researchers ensure that stakeholder contributions ― whether through consultation, involvement or collaboration ― are properly valued? What steps can researchers take to make stakeholder participation as effective as possible? How can damaging pitfalls be avoided?

Researchers can make the stakeholder engagement process maximally effective by paying attention to the following three aspects:

  1. ensuring credibility, relevance and legitimacy of stakeholder contributions
  2. accommodating stakeholder motivations, expertise and ability to participate
  3. avoiding or managing potential pitfalls.

1. Ensuring credibility, relevance and legitimacy of stakeholder participation

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Developing facilitation capacities in graduate students

By Gemma Jiang and Robert Hacku

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1. Gemma Jiang (biography)
2. Robert Hacku (biography)

What does it take for graduate students to become good at facilitation? What skills do they need to learn and how can such skills best be imparted?

A facilitator is someone trained in the skill of shaping group dynamics and collective conversations. In cross-disciplinary research, thoughtful facilitation is necessary to enable effective interaction across disciplines and sectors.

We describe an apprentice facilitator program developed in a cross-disciplinary research team comprised of nine faculty and 15 graduate students from four academic institutes, representing six disciplines.

Five apprentices were selected from the graduate students on the team. The program was one semester long and took on average one hour per week.

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How can social network analysis benefit transdisciplinary research?

By Leonhard Späth, Rea Pärli and the RUNRES project team

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1. Leonhard Späth (biography)
2. Rea Pärli (biography)
3. RUNRES Project Team (participants)

Can we observe in a more analytical way how transdisciplinarity “happens”? How useful is social network analysis in transdisciplinary work, especially for uncovering the role of relationship structures? How can transdisciplinary concepts be used to map connections between those involved in transdisciplinary research?

A very brief introduction to social network analysis

Social network analysis is the study of connections between different people or any other social entity involved in the topic under investigation (referred to as actors), as well as the patterns of those connections and the distribution of the ties among actors.

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Principles for welcoming all voices

By Keith McCandless

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Keith McCandless (biography)

Which principles would allow us to manage and lead groups that aspire to include all voices in shaping next steps and the future?

Liberating Structures is an approach to working together that puts innovative and facilitative power in the hands of everyone. It does this through 33 adaptable microstructures that allow groups of people of any size to be all-inclusive and to unleash everyone’s power.

Liberating Structures is based on ten principles that help guide choices and keep a community together while moving toward their set purpose.

Liberating Structures practice and principles come alive through active engagement. The path is co-evolving, iterative, and mutually shaped. As shown in the table below, each principle is couched as follows: When Liberating Structures are part of everyday interactions, it is possible to…

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