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Architectures of adaptive integration in large collaborative projects

Lois Wright Morton, Department of Sociology, Iowa State University
Sanford D Eigenbrode, Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho
Timothy A Martin, University of Florida


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Collaborations to address complex societal problems associated with managing human-natural systems often require large teams comprised of scientists from multiple disciplines. For many such problems, large-scale, transdisciplinary projects whose members include scientists, stakeholders, and other professionals are necessary. The success of very large, transdisciplinary projects can be facilitated by attending to the diversity of types of collaboration that inevitably occur within them. As projects progress and evolve, the resulting dynamic collaborative heterogeneity within them constitutes architectures of adaptive integration (AAI). Management that acknowledges this dynamic and fosters and promotes awareness of it within a project can better facilitate the creativity and innovation required to address problems from a systems perspective. In successful large projects, AAI (1) functionally meets objectives and goals, (2) uses disciplinary expertise and concurrently bridges many disciplines, (3) has mechanisms to enable connection, (4) delineates boundaries to keep focus but retain flexibility, (5) continuously monitors and adapts, and (6) encourages project-wide awareness. These principles are illustrated using as case studies three large climate change and agriculture projects funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture–National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Key words

architectures of adaptive integration; collaborative science; team science

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087