Thursday, May 27, 2010

Interdisciplinary knowledge integration

An article I worked on with ex-colleagues from Leuven (Johan Hovelynck, Greet Fran├žois and Tharsi Taillieu) has just appeared on the Environmental Science and Policy website.

Hovelynck, J., Dewulf, A., Fran├žois, G., & Taillieu, T. (in press). Interdisciplinary knowledge integration through group model building: recognizing dualities and triadizing the conversation. Environmental Science & Policy, doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2010.04.002

This articles adressess the challenge of integrating knowledge across different disciplines in environmental sciences by studying interdisciplinary group model building sessions. Dealing with dualities about how to develop and represent knowledge emerges as a key challenge for interdisciplinary knowledge integration, and the importance of creating a third position in these discussion is underlined.

This is the abstract:

As part of the inquiry into managing an interdisciplinary research process on adaptive water governance, we investigated the process of group model building (GMB) and, more specifically, the role of Unified Modeling Language (UML) in this process. An analysis of group interaction reveals several tensions in the process of knowledge integration, which can be grouped into three overarching dualities: ‘simplicity versus complexity’, ‘constraining versus containing’ and ‘defining versus refining’. As group members take different positions with regard to these dualities, these represent sources of tension and potential ‘stuckness’ of the GMB. Hence the question arises how the group can manage duality in ways that take the GMB beyond its opposing forces. We suggest that knowledge integration processes may benefit from early recognition of the dualities at hand and strategies aimed at creating ‘thirdness’, including some suggestions on the concrete forms such ‘thirdness’ may take.

The article can be downloaded here