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Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration and Learning

Deana D Pennington, Long Term Ecological Research Network Office; University of New Mexico

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Abstract

Complex environmental problem solving depends on cross-disciplinary collaboration among scientists. Collaborative research must be preceded by an exploratory phase of collective thinking that creates shared conceptual frameworks. Collective thinking, in a cross-disciplinary setting, depends on the facility with which collaborators are able to learn and understand each others’ perspectives. This paper applies three perspectives on learning to the problem of enabling cross-disciplinary collaboration: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, constructivism, and organizational learning. Application of learning frameworks to collaboration provides insights regarding receptive environments for collaboration, and processes that facilitate cross-disciplinary interactions. These environments and interactions need time to develop and require a long phase of idea generation preceding any focused research effort. The findings highlight that collaboration is itself a complex system of people, scientific theory, and tools that must be intentionally managed. Effective management of the system requires leaders who are facilitators and are capable of orchestrating effective environments and interactions.

Key words

collaboration; collective thinking; cross-disciplinary science
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087