Can boundary objects be designed to help researchers and decision makers to interact more effectively? How can the socio-political setting – which will affect decisions made – be reflected in the boundary objects?
Here I describe a new context-specific boundary object to promote decision making based on scientific evidence. But first I provide a brief introduction to boundary objects.
In a previous blog post I described multivocality – ie., harnessing multiple voices – in interdisciplinary research and how research I was involved in (Suthers et al., 2013) highlighted pitfalls to be avoided. This blog post examines four ways in which epistemological engagement can be achieved. Two of these are positive and two may have both positive and negative aspects, depending on how the collaboration plays out.
Once a team begins analyzing a shared corpus from different perspectives — in our case, it was a corpus of people solving problems together — it’s the comparison of researchers’ respective analyses that can be a motor for productive epistemological encounters between the researchers.
To make progress in contributing to the solution of complex real-world problems, transdisciplinary research has come to the forefront. By integrating multiple disciplines as well as the expertise of partners from societal practice, transdisciplinary researchers are able to look at a problem from many angles, with the goal of making both societal and scientific advances.
But how can these different types of expertise be integrated into both a better understanding of the problem and more effective ways of addressing it?
Colleagues and I have collected 43 methods from a number of transdisciplinary research projects dealing with a variety of research topics. We have grouped them into seven classes following an epistemological hierarchy. We start with methods in the narrower sense, progressing to integration instruments.
How can people with quite different ways of ‘seeing’ and thinking about a problem discover and negotiate these differences?
A key element of co-creation is joint problem definition. However, problem definition is likely to be a matter of perspective, or a matter of how each person involved ‘frames’ the problem. Differing frames are inevitable when participants bring their differing expertise and experience to a problem. Methods and processes to support co-creation, then, need to manage the coming together of people with differing ways of framing the problem, so participants can contribute to joint problem definition.
Over a decade ago I became interested in the role of external artifacts in enabling knowledge synthesis across disciplinary perspectives, where external artifacts are any simplified physical representation of real phenomena that enable human manipulation of complex concepts. A simulation model is one example of an external artifact. In general every simplified representation of reality is a model, whether that representation occurs in our heads (mental models), on paper (conceptual models) or in a sophisticated computer-based simulation model. And so I embarked on a research agenda to understand the role of data, models, and other forms of external representations in enabling integration and synthesis across perspectives.
Like many practices in life, there is an art and a science to facilitation. Certainly, best practices in facilitating processes within participatory modeling mirror many of those practices highlighted in guides to other participatory approaches. It is of critical importance that the expectations around the word “effective”, as taken from the definition above, are identified and negotiated. How can an individual or team of individuals help the process if expectations are unmatched?