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SHAPE ENERGY Reflexive Review of Interdisciplinary Working

Abstract : This report presents these outcomes with regard to three overarching methodologies applied in SHAPE ENERGY: (i) an academic literature review; (ii) a set of ethnographic observations of interdisciplinary interactions, and (iii) the method of ‘reference problems’ which brings together scholars around commonly shared scientific problems. With the help of these methods, in this report we show that: 1. Literature around collaborative research strategies in energy- and sustainability-related SSH (section 2) relates primarily to four types: (a) Multidisciplinarity research is characterised by gathering knowledge from various disciplines; (b) Interdisciplinarity research contains a certain level of disciplinary integration which requires more extensive cooperation; (c) Transdisciplinary research seeks to abandon disciplinary thinking and create boundary-crossing theories; (d) Transformative science takes an active role in initiating scientific change processes, focusing on joint learning of scientists and laypersons. What is missing is literature on how to translate these research varieties into academic practice, and the relevance of collaboration practices in relation to expected outcomes. We recommend careful consideration of the specific research question(s) being considered to assess which integrative measure(s) may be appropriate. 2. Ethnographic observation of participant interaction (section 3) took place during the SHAPE ENERGY summer school, and 17 multi-stakeholder workshops. Analysis of this data leads us to several conclusions regarding interdisciplinary working: (a) Working across disciplines requires clear objectives on all sides, which also includes allowing sufficient time for each discipline to produce a ‘rigorous’ and meaningful output; (b) Interdisciplinarity is paradoxical: it requires working to achieve an efficient integration of knowledge across disciplinary boundaries, yet also maintaining disciplinary depth of each individual contributor; (c) Inclusivity in interdisciplinary activities can be achieved through careful facilitation and design; (d) Interdisciplinary encounters in SHAPE ENERGY revealed that cultural assumptions underpinning interdisciplinary exercises often remain unconsidered. Instead, these should be explicated. 3. One way of pursuing interdisciplinary research is the application of ‘reference problems’ (section 4), such as in the SHAPE ENERGY Research Design Challenge (RDC) and the Think Piece Collection (TPC), which invited European scholars to work together on interdisciplinary essays. Reference problems allowed authors writing on numerous energy SSH themes to come together around three scientific problems, which we explicitly link to control, change and capacity-building in energy systems. Authors across the TPC and RDC addressed similar energy-related topics, although they partially related to different reference problems. Topics included: renewable energy development in local communities and society, reducing the social costs of the energy transition, and energy behaviour and decision-making. Researchers developed their collaborative designs through focusing on the underlying reference problem, and not their personal academic background. Based on these experiences, we recommend the systematic use of this approach in the European SSH and STEM communities, as our evaluation shows it to promote problem-driven interdisciplinary research, prioritising the scientific problems behind the energy transition instead of disciplinary preoccupations.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - 4:04:05 PM
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Patrick Sumpf, Christian Büscher, Pauline Claudot, Yvette Jeuken, Carina Mnich, et al.. SHAPE ENERGY Reflexive Review of Interdisciplinary Working. [Research Report] Anglia Ruskin University. 2018. ⟨halshs-02065360⟩



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