Seven tips for developing large-scale cross-disciplinary research proposals

By Gemma Jiang, Jin Wen and Simi Hoque

authors_gemma-jiang_jin-wen_simi-hoque
1. Gemma Jiang (biography)
2. Jin Wen (biography)
3. Simi Hoque (biography)

What are the key ingredients for successfully developing large-scale cross-disciplinary research proposals? What’s required for a team to successfully work together at the proposal development stage?

Here we provide seven lessons based on our experience, divided into:

  • team characteristics
  • structuring the grant proposal writing process.

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Gradients of agreement for democratic decision-making

By Hannah Love

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Hannah Love (biography)

How does your team make decisions? Do you vote? Does the loudest voice usually win? Does everyone on the team generally feel heard? Does your team have a charter to provide guidance? Or maybe there is often just silence and the team assumes agreement?

The next time your team makes a decision, here is something new you can try! Kaner (2014) proposes using a gradients of agreement scale. The gradients of agreement, also known as the consensus spectrum, provides an alternative to yes/no decision-making by allowing everyone to mark their response along a continuum, as shown in the figure below.

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Listening-based dialogue: Circle of dialogue wisdom / Diálogo basado en la escucha: Círculos de diálogo entre saberes

By Adriana Moreno Cely, Darío Cuajera Nahui, César Gabriel Escobar Vásquez, Tom Vanwing and Nelson Tapia Ponce

authors_adriana-moreno-cely_dario-uajera-nahui_cesar-escobar-vasquez_tom-vanwing_nelson-tapia-ponce
1. Adriana Moreno Cely; 2. Darío Cuajera Nahui; 3. César Gabriel Escobar Vásquez; 4. Tom Vanwing; 5. Nelson Tapia Ponce (biographies)

A Spanish version of this post is available.

How can marginalised knowledge systems really make themselves heard in collaborative research? What’s needed for research decolonisation to properly recognise Indigenous and local knowledge? How can power imbalances be bridged to ensure that everyone has an equal voice?

We describe the “circle of dialogue wisdom” as a methodological framework to reconceptualise participation, empowerment and collaboration. The framework has 6 phases, which should be seen as spiral and iterative rather than linear.

The six phases, shown in the figure below are:

    1. Knowing each other
    2. Concerting rules for participation
    3. Creating safe spaces
    4. Building affection
    5. Opening spaces for co-creating solutions
    6. Taking solutions to practice (Moreno-Cely, et al., 2021).

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Enabling divergent and convergent thinking in cross-disciplinary graduate students

By Gemma Jiang

author_gemma-jiang
Gemma Jiang (biography)

How can we enable graduate students to think in ways that open new possibilities, as well as to make good decisions based on diverse cross-disciplinary insights?

Here I describe how we have embedded 14 graduate students in a research team with nine faculty from four academic institutes, representing six disciplines (for simplicity only three disciplines – engineering, economics, and anthropology – are considered here). Our research addresses the circular economy. I have developed a three-step model (summarised in the figure below) to operationalize the “divergence-convergence diamond,” which is key to our teaching method.

The “divergence – convergence diamond” is widely used in design thinking. The divergent mode helps open new possibilities while the convergent mode helps evaluate what you have and make decisions.

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Six ways facilitation skills can improve cross-disciplinary team leadership

By Manal Affara

An Arabic version of this post is available.

author_manal-affara
Manal Affara (biography)

What facilitation skills are useful for leading teams in cross-disciplinary projects?

Facilitation and leadership are usually considered to involve different skills, but in a recent article Carrie Addington (2020) examined how facilitation skills can improve leadership. I take this one step further to examine how facilitation skills can improve leadership of cross-disciplinary projects.

Collaboration is central to cross-disciplinary research, requiring facilitation to engage partners, unlock their potential, organize the project, and encourage continuous learning, as well as applying insights from that learning.

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Setting an agenda for transdisciplinary research in Africa

By Basirat Oyalowo

author_basirat-oyalowo
Basirat Oyalowo (biography)

Why is transdisciplinary research important for the advancement of African countries? What are the key issues that need to be taken into account in fostering such research?

This blog post presents key lessons from the ‘Transdisciplinary Research Workshop: Rethinking Research in COVID-19 times’, held in August 2020, in which we brought together academia, government, civil society, industry and development agencies to delve into how researchers might navigate the new terrain wrought by COVID-19 in Africa and use it to further the development of transdisciplinary research. Although the focus of the workshop was urbanization and habitable cities and on adjusting to COVID-19, the lessons for enhancing transdisciplinary research are more broadly generalizable.

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Responding to unacknowledged disciplinary differences with the Toolbox dialogue method

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

authors_graham-hubbs_michael-orourke_steven-hecht-orzack
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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Do we need diversity science?

By Katrin Prager

author_katrin-prager_2021
Katrin Prager (biography)

Where do the benefits of diverse teams come from and how can those benefits be unlocked? What are the pitfalls to watch out for in constructing a team that is greater than the sum of its parts?

To boost innovation and creativity in teams I suggest we need to develop diversity science, which has 5 elements:

  1. identifying the right kind of diversity
  2. avoiding homophily
  3. avoiding dominance hierarchies
  4. fostering appropriate leadership
  5. building and protecting trust.

Let’s unpack each of these elements.

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What is 3-dimensional team leadership?

By Bradley L. Kirkman

authro_bradley-kirkman
Bradley L. Kirkman (biography)

It is useful to think about teams as having three dimensions:

  1. the team as a whole
  2. the individuals in the team
  3. the subteams within the overall team, or the smaller subsets of team members who cluster together to work on specific tasks. With teams taking on more and more complex tasks, it is not uncommon for members with similar skills to tackle various assignments over a period of time and then integrate their outputs into the larger, overall team.

How does a leader know when to focus on which dimension?

The secret lies in knowing how a particular team best carries out its tasks, specifically a concept known as interdependence.

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Interdisciplinary competencies and innovation

By Colleen Knechtel

author_colleen-knechtel
Colleen Knechtel (biography)

What interdisciplinary competencies are required for innovation? How can such interdisciplinary competencies be implemented to foster innovation?

Keys to stimulating innovation are cultivating interdisciplinary mindsets and skillsets. Interdisciplinary mindsets involve recognizing diverse knowledge to enable collaboration to enhance collective creativity, whereas interdisciplinary skillsets embrace relational competencies, work experiences, the sciences, humanities, trades and technologies. Integrating such diverse knowledge and skills is key to innovation.

Strategies for implementing interdisciplinary competencies

1. Recognizing prior knowledge and skills

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Navigating paradoxical tensions through both/and thinking

By Faye Miller

author_faye-miller
Faye Miller (biography)

How can the many paradoxical tensions that arise in transdisciplinary projects be effectively navigated?

My recent research into how to produce shared understanding for digital and social innovation identifies three key tenets for navigating paradoxes as an emerging transdisciplinary method:

  1. Identifying paradoxical tensions;
  2. Moving from either/or to both/and thinking; and
  3. Working through paradoxes to workable certainty or negotiated understanding.

Identifying paradoxical tensions

A paradox involves contradictory-yet-interrelated elements that exist simultaneously, which morph, shift and persist over time. Increasing our focus on paradoxes fosters the development of creative and innovative mindsets encouraging transdisciplinary researchers to employ both logic and intuition in their approaches.

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The “ABC’s” of interdisciplinarity

By Stephen M. Fiore

author_stephen-fiore_2017
Stephen M. Fiore (biography)

What are the attitudinal, behavioral, and cognitive issues that influence interdisciplinary collaborations?

The illustrations I provide here are based upon 20 years of experience working in research environments with scholars ranging from philosophers, anthropologists, and sociologists, to historians, economists, and ecologists, to psychologists, computer scientists, and neuroscientists. This experience has helped to illuminate what creates challenges during interdisciplinary interactions and what also can contribute to effective collaborations and help scholars learn from each other.

Attitudinal issues

Often times interaction is stifled when collaborators maintain some form of disciplinary disdain. The characteristics of disciplinary disdain include lack of respect or a form of contempt for another disciplinary approach, or condescension toward another discipline. An example is the view basic researchers sometimes show for applied research.

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