Improving cross-disciplinary collaboration with strategy knotworking and ecocycle planning

By Nancy White

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Nancy White (biography)

How can cross-disciplinary teams improve their project results and cross-team learning, especially when they are part of a portfolio of funded projects?

I have worked with cross disciplinary teams in international agriculture development, ecosystems management and mental health. For the most part, these are externally funded initiatives and have requirements both for results (application of the work) and for cross-team learning. Often there is not useful clarity about how funder and grantee agendas work in sync. And there is rarely opportunity or support for shared optimization and exploration across different portfolios of funded work.

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Stakeholder engagement: Learning from Arnstein’s ladder and the IAP2 spectrum

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

What can researchers interested in stakeholder engagement learn from two classic frameworks on citizen involvement in government decision making – Arnstein’s ladder and the IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation) spectrum of public participation?

Arnstein’s ladder

Sherry Arnstein (1969) developed an eight-rung ladder, shown in the figure below, to illustrate that there are significant gradations of citizen participation in government decision making.

The two bottom rungs are manipulation and therapy.

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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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Collaboration agreement template

By L. Michelle Bennett, Edgar Cardenas and Michael O’Rourke

1. L. Michelle Bennett (biography)
2. Edgar Cardenas (biography)
2. Michael O’Rourke (biography)

As scientific research continues to move towards collaborative knowledge production, scientists must become more adept at working in teams. How can teams improve their chances of collaboration success? What is a good way to facilitate dialogue about shared values, norms and processes of collaboration? Are there ways of anticipating, identifying, and addressing obstacles as they arise?

We have designed a collaboration agreement template to assist teams in:

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Clarifying incentives and expectations in research collaborations

By Alisa Zomer and Varja Lipovsek

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1. Alisa Zomer (biography)
2. Varja Lipovsek (biography)

In which areas do research collaborations between academics and practitioners often run into trouble? What difficult questions can we ask ourselves and our partners at the outset of a research collaboration that can set us up for a successful partnership? How can we learn from past successful and failed aspects of research partnerships?

In our experience four areas where collaborations can have problems are:

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Managing risk and equity in collaborative research

By Alisa Zomer and Selmah Goldberg

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1. Alisa Zomer (biography)
2. Selmah Goldberg (biography)

How do the perceived costs, benefits and risks that researchers envision compare to reality when a project is implemented? How can we best support equitable exchange and decision-making for all actors involved in research study design and implementation?

We have developed a risk and equity matrix to stimulate systematic consideration of potential impacts for stakeholders, researchers and others involved in a research process, to ensure that risks and benefits of research collaborations are distributed in a more equitable manner.

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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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Stakeholder engagement primer: 5. Choosing engagement options

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can researchers decide which engagement options will be most appropriate for which stakeholders? How can they take into account multiple considerations such as the aims of stakeholder engagement, the requirements of the research and available resources?

It can be helpful to think through how each option for stakeholder engagement (described in Primer #4) would be operationalised for each stakeholder, using the questions below. These make explicit what researchers often do intuitively.

By teasing out specifically what is required and matching this with the available resources – time, money and person-power – the aim is to reduce the possibility of a project running out of steam for stakeholder engagement before it is concluded and to maximise the chances that the commitments made by researchers to stakeholders (the ‘promise’ described in Primer #4) for each type of engagement can be fulfilled.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 4. Options for engagement

By Gabriele Bammer

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What options are available to researchers for including stakeholders in a research project in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the problem, provide ideas about addressing it and help the research to support policy or practice change? Can different stakeholders be included in different ways? Can the same group of stakeholders participate in different ways in various aspects of the research? What obligations do researchers have to participating stakeholders over the course of that project?

It can be useful to consider 5 ways in which researchers can include stakeholders in a project:

1. Inform:
Researchers provide stakeholders with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the research.

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A Partnership Outcome Spaces framework for transdisciplinary student-staff partnerships

By Giedre Kligyte, Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, Jarnae Leslie, Tyler Key, Bethany Hooper and Eleanor Salazar

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1. Giedre Kligyte; 2. Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer; 3. Jarnae Leslie; 4. Tyler Key; 5. Bethany Hooper; 6. Eleanor Salazar (biographies)

How can universities leverage students’ perspectives to create pathways towards lasting organisational change in higher education? How can we conceptualise institutional impact and outcomes of transdisciplinary student-staff partnerships?

Why student-staff partnerships?

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

By Gemma Jiang, Jin Wen and Simi Hoque

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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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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

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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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