Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Dialogue, discourse, and engaging different voices
Thursday, 12/Sep/2019:
3:50pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Christian Pohl
Location: Nordamerika
Conference Centre Wallenberg

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Contemplating Complexities: Enabling transdisciplinary dialogue in co-production processes.

Johan Larson Lindal1, Varvara Nikulina2, Henrik Ny2

1Royal University of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden; 2Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden

Participatory approaches in urban planning are gaining wider applicability among stakeholders. Transdisciplinary co-production of knowledge is one example of such approaches. However, conducting and managing transdisciplinary processes entails facing a wide range of general and contextual challenges, such as relating to variations in epistemic communities, culture, language (discourse, lingua franca and vernacular), gender, age, pace of life, political and institutional contexts. These challenges require concepts, approaches and methodologies enabling facilitation of efficient processes along the way.

This paper sought initial answers to how we might enable a practical response to the identified challenges of transdisciplinary co-production planning processes.

As a starting point, we began to assess five approaches for theoretical relevance: design thinking, systems thinking, complexity awareness, deliberative theory and behavioural economics. The theoretical insights were tested in the case study of a scenario development process in the Blekinge Region within the Strukturbild Blekinge 2.0 project. More specifically, elements of all five approaches were used to analyse the design process of a transdisciplinary stakeholder project workshop, its implementation and follow up. The assessment results were compiled into a preliminary framework for transdisciplinary dialogue in co-production processes. Findings indicated that elements of each approach were relevant in establishing a framework for transdisciplinary dialogue during different stages of the project workshop.

The authors expect that the findings could have potential benefits for transdisciplinary co-production processes related to urban planning in other parts of Sweden and abroad, as well as in other contexts, such as sectoral and cross-sectoral participatory processes.

This study builds on the previous work resulted in a manuscript “Lost in translation: a framework for analysing complexity of co-production settings in relation to epistemic communities, language and culture” (Nikulina et al, 2019, submitted to a journal).

Larson Lindal-Contemplating Complexities-184.docx

Detecting Integrative Discourse in Team Meetings

Bethany K. Laursen, Michael O'Rourke

Michigan State University

Integrating disciplinary & professional contributions is essential to transdisciplinary teamwork. Many teams succeed while others fail. However, transdisciplinary methods have yet to be developed for observing such success or failure in the making. Our research presents a method for detecting integrative discourse in team meetings using a new form of conversation analysis. We employ argument reconstruction to identify integrative relations between disciplinary contributions.

We highlight two reasons why team researchers find integrative discourse hard to detect. Firstly, we do not know what integration is. Yet recently O’Rourke and colleagues (2016) characterized integration as “an input/output process, where a series of changes to the inputs results in a ‘bringing together’ or combination of inputs, producing an output” (p.67). This IPO (Input-Process-Output) model of integration emphasizes the importance of integrative relations (IRs). Integrative relations include relations such as fusing, linking, assimilation, and transformation. However, the list of IRs is open-ended, and therefore, so is our theory of them. Observing integrative relations in team discourse can help us refine our understanding of IRs.

Secondly, we do not know how integration is achieved in team conversations. Again, recent work provides a step forward. Laursen (2018) proposed that interdisciplinary integration can be observed in how teams reason together. Collaborative reasoning involves building, offering, and evaluating arguments. Like integration, an argument can be understood as an IPO process with the inputs being reasons (premises) and the outputs being claims (conclusions). The process that transforms premises into conclusions is inference. By application, then, when team members make an integrative argument, they rely on IRs. Therefore, to detect integration in team talk, we need to observe which IRs team members use in making inferences from reasons to conclusions.

We pursue these observations by using several transcripts from team workshops conducted by the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (O’Rourke and Crowley 2013). First, we use argument reconstruction to identify claims the participants make (see also Brun et al 2014 . Second, we look for integrative relations within these claims. Identifying an IR requires identifying its inputs and outputs (and, if desired, their disciplinary origins) and then identifying the combination used to integrate the inputs into the outputs, which is the IR itself. Third, we arrange the IRs into a taxonomy that can serve as a menu of options for analysts and team members seeking integration.

Open questions from our work include: How can we improve the reproducibility of this method? What aspects of integrative discourse does this method miss? What integrative relations do you see in our transcripts? How would you taxonomize them?


Brun, Georg, Hadorn, G. H., & Baumberger, C. (2014). Short Guide to Analysing Texts (pp. 1–12). Zurich, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.

Laursen, B. K. (2018). What is collaborative, interdisciplinary reasoning? The heart of interdisciplinary team science. Informing Science, 21, 75–106.

O'Rourke, M., & Crowley, S. J. (2013). Philosophical intervention and cross-disciplinary science: the story of the Toolbox Project. Synthese, 190(11), 1937–1954.

O'Rourke, M., Crowley, S., & Gonnerman, C. (2016). On the nature of cross-disciplinary integration: A philosophical framework. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 56, 62–70.

Laursen-Detecting Integrative Discourse in Team Meetings-139.docx

Listening to the loud and soft voices of interdisciplinarity to enable societal transformation

Katrine Lindvig1, Catherine Lyall2

1The University of Copenhagen; 2The University of Edinburgh

Paradoxes, according to Granovetter (1973), are “a welcome antidote to theories which explain everything all too neatly”. In this presentation, we discuss some of the paradoxes that are evident from our studies of Danish and British attempts to institutionalise interdisciplinarity within existing higher education structures (Lindvig, 2017; Lyall, 2019).

We contrast individual and institutional practices in order to highlight the decoupling that persists between strategic, institutional levels and those engaged in the daily practice of interdisciplinarity, revealing a series of misalignments between rhetoric and reality.

Existing approaches to interdisciplinarity can broadly be divided into categories of integration and of generalisation; of perceiving interdisciplinarity as something that can and should be defined by concrete, set methods and guidelines (Repko, 2017) or as a concept that covers any dialogue between disciplines (Moran, 2010) and thus applied to a broader field of activities.

Another way of understanding the concept of interdisciplinarity is that it has both a loud and performative voice and a quiet and productive voice. Whereas the performative voice is visible in institutional strategies and national (and international) research funding policies, the quiet voice is present at the local and everyday levels, where students and researchers do highly integrated research and educational activities, often without even labelling it ‘interdisciplinary’.

So far, these voices of interdisciplinarity have been discussed in separate strands of the literature; partly because of a division of labour between research fields studying interdisciplinary research, collaboration and education, respectively; partly because the approaches address different levels of governance of higher education and research and are motivated by different goals.

Nevertheless, in our studies from two countries with relatively recent explicit interdisciplinary histories, these voices are concurrently present; as two voices, speaking at different sound levels. The loud and strategic voice is heard at the programme and project management levels; the quieter voice is present at the mundane levels, among the faculty, researchers and students, practising interdisciplinarity.

The presentation draws first on empirical data from fieldwork conducted in Denmark from a large interdisciplinary programme at the University of Copenhagen to introduce the concept of soft and loud voices in order to illuminate the challenges of introducing interdisciplinarity within existing monodisciplinary structures. We then test the utility of this concept by demonstrating how these loud and soft voices can also be witnessed through a series of career history interviews with British academics.

By offering a counter-balance to the experiences from countries with a longer history of institutionalised interdisciplinary education and research, we wish to prompt a discussion of the implications of these voices when they are brought into balance, and the impact that this might have on the organization of our institutions, to enable them to better handle the necessary transformations that we seek as a society. In a wider perspective, the aim is to ensure that researchers and students of the future are better equipped with the skills to co-design and lead processes that target sustainable outcomes.


Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.

Lindvig, K. (2017). Creating Interdisciplinarity within Monodisciplinary Structures (PhD Thesis). Department of Science Education, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen.

Lyall, C. (2019). Being an Interdisciplinary Academic: How institutions Shape University Careers (London: Palgrave)

Moran, J. (2010). Interdisciplinarity (2.). London: Routledge.

Repko, A. (2017). Interdisciplinary research process and theory. Los Angeles: SAGE,.

Lindvig-Listening to the loud and soft voices of interdisciplinarity to enable societal transformation-199.docx

Refreshing Transdisciplinary Research: the Challenges of Research with Children in Intercultural Contexts

Frédéric Darbellay, Zoe Moody

University of Geneva,

Transdisciplinary research has a tradition of integrating in its processes of co-construction and development, not only knowledge produced by scientific disciplines, but also more or less expert knowledge and skills from non-academic actors. The main objective of this type of trans-disciplinary research (trans-, that goes beyond disciplines and transgresses the boundaries between the academic and non-academic worlds) is to build a comprehensive understanding of a given problem and to solve it through exchange and cooperation. While transdisciplinary research has primarily been developed by involving extra-academic actors in the sectors of civil society, the private sector and/or the state, it is important to rethink its dynamics when it opens up to the participation of children in the research process. Is transdisciplinary research involving children as co-researchers similar to that conducted with adults or does it present specificities? If so, can these specificities provide new theoretical paths and methodological innovations capable of producing data and interpretations that can change or transform social practices and the place of children, not only in the dynamics of social change but also in the world of scientific research? This presentation aims to take stock of the progress of transdisciplinary research by positioning children in its realm. The founding concepts of transdisciplinary research, including complexity, integration, co-production, collaboration and problem solving, will be analysed through the lens of the participation principle, core to the field of children's rights interdisciplinary studies.

Without entering a militant approach, but in line with the core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), children's needs and capacities for research, curiosity and discovery have to be recognized, without discrimination. The child’s best interests and opinion also have to be considered in all decisions or actions that concern him or her. Finally, the implementation of the rights to development and participation should enable children to develop their full potential, while exercising their freedom of thought and expression (the right to be heard) by actively participating in the life of the community, more specifically to the life of scientific research.

Transdisciplinary cooperation between scientists and children as co-researchers raises fundamental questions about the institutional, organizational, epistemological, theoretical, methodological and ethical dimensions of research practices. We approach these questions in an intercultural and comparative perspective, by presenting a research project that involves children at different levels of participatory scale. We show how and why a more or less active participation of children in the research process and the co-production of methodological tools, analysis and interpretation schemes is likely to impact more or less sustainably the production of scientific and social knowledge. The project (“Exploring the way to and from school with children: an interdisciplinary approach of children’s experience of the third place”) experiences directly the issues and methods of transdisciplinary research by involving children in the research process as members of an advisory group to fully co-develop methodological tools with scientists and assist them with data interpretation and production of recommendations for the civil society.

Darbellay-Refreshing Transdisciplinary Research-128.docx

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