Working across boundaries
Working across and disrupting traditional boundaries in research, among disciplines or between academic and practitioner/community research.
A series of artificial and unhelpful boundaries separate researchers and their research – between academic disciplines or between academic and practitioner/community research. Often there is little communication between them, and so research effort is duplicated or does not get to interested audiences.
The other major benefit of working across these boundaries is the rich mix of approaches, skills and attitudes that can come together to create new ideas and practices.
Where research is conducted in silos, it is harder to share skills, approaches, knowledge and outcomes.
When academics from different disciplines work together, this is known as interdisciplinarity. When researchers and practitioners from different fields work together, this is known as transdisciplinarity.
This is increasingly recognised in the structures that govern academic research, e.g a shift in UK Research Council funding and EU funding from 2014 towards interdisciplinarity. Such funders are more willing to recognise non-academic participants as co-applicants if not researchers, but there is still some way to go on this.
The value of activists working across national boundaries (establishing transnational solidarity and networks) is also clear.
Some care is needed, as researchers from different backgrounds and situations may have different priorities, language, expectations, etc. A process of dialogue is needed to make these sorts of collaborations work. Various practices such as memorandum of understanding can be helpful.
Working across traditional boundaries can often have positive results.