What transdisciplinary researchers should know about evaluation: Origins and current state

By Wolfgang Beywl and Amy Gullickson

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1. Wolfgang Beywl (biography)
2. Amy Gullickson (biography)

Efforts to develop evaluation in transdisciplinary research have mostly been conducted without reference to the evaluation literature, effectively re-inventing and re-discussing key concepts. What do transdisciplinary researchers need to know to build on the in-depth knowledge available in evaluation science?

Here we add to other key contributions about evaluation in i2Insights, especially:

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Multidisciplinary perspectives on unknown unknowns

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

This is part of a series of occasional “synthesis blog posts” drawing together perspectives on related topics across i2Insights contributions.

How can different disciplines and practitioners enhance the ability to understand and manage unknown unknowns, also referred to as deep uncertainty?

Seventeen blog posts have addressed these issues, covering:

  • how unknown unknowns can be understood
  • exploiting unknown unknowns
  • accepting unknown unknowns
  • reducing unknown unknowns.

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Pause… How art and literature can transform transdisciplinary research

By Jane Palmer and Dena Fam

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1. Jane Palmer (biography)
2. Dena Fam (biography)

What might make us stop and think differently about the ways in which we interact with our environment and others, human and nonhuman? What kind of knowing about acute threats to the natural environment will sufficiently motivate action?

We suggest that art and literature can offer us a pause in which we might, firstly, imagine other less anthropocentric ways of being in the world, and secondly, a way into Basarab Nicolescu’s “zone of non-resistance” (2014, p. 192), where we become truly open to new transdisciplinary forms of collaboration.

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Advancing considerations of affect in interdisciplinary collaborations

By Mareike Smolka, Erik Fisher and Alexandra Hausstein

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1. Mareike Smolka (biography)
2. Erik Fisher (biography)
2. Alexandra Hausstein’s biography

Have you ever had a fleeting impression of seeing certainty disrupted, the impulse to laugh when your expectations were broken, or a startling sense of something being both familiar and foreign at the same time?

As social scientists engaged in collaborative studies with natural scientists and engineers, we have had these experiences repeatedly while doing research.

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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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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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Understanding diversity primer: 7. Culture

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can we begin to understand cultural diversity? How does culture affect how problems are framed, understood and responded to? How does culture affect how well those contributing to the research work together?

In this primer, the term ‘culture’ is used to describe the social behaviours and norms of groups in society. There is, therefore, overlap with values, but culture and values are not identical. Cultural differences are commonly thought of in relation to the inhabitants of different countries, but can also apply to occupations, religions, age-groups, members of different social classes and much more.

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Understanding diversity primer: 6. Interests

By Gabriele Bammer

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What are interests 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?

What are interests?

Interests will be familiar through attention paid to ‘conflicts of interest,’ ‘vested interests’ and ‘interest groups.’ Yet interests are challenging to pin down.

The common definition of interests as things that a person is curious about has some relevance for research. It needs to be rounded out by another aspect of interests, which is about having a stake in something and standing to gain or lose depending on what happens to that something.

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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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Four typical behaviours in interdisciplinary knowledge integration

By Annemarie Horn and Eduardo Urias

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1. Annemarie Horn (biography)
2. Eduardo Urias (biography)

Why do some collaborators in interdisciplinary teamwork clash? And why does collaboration between others seem smooth but not yield anything? What causes these differences in collaboration, and how can this inform interventions to support interdisciplinary collaboration and integration?

When we started teaching an interdisciplinary masters course, we expected it to become a battlefield, based on our reading of countless lists of the challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration. We thought that the students’ diverse study backgrounds – ranging from arts to medicine, and from social sciences to mathematics – would cause tensions; that they would disagree with each other about theories and methods that they were unfamiliar with and held opinions about.

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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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