An investigation into the challenges of transdisciplinary R&D : values, culture and the case of the BIOSSAM project

Brent, Alan Colin (2012-03)

Thesis (MPhil) -- Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The emerging classification of Sustainability-oriented Innovation Systems places an emphasis on the social elements of change, as well as the technological. However, sustainability-oriented problems are too vast for one person or discipline to comprehend; thus people tend to want to collaborate, meaning they form teams. As a further extension to address sustainability-oriented problems, there is an increasing emphasis on transdisciplinary research and development (R&D) efforts, whereby co-production transgresses boundaries, and science becomes visible before it becomes certain. To reach the objectives of transdisciplinary R&D efforts will require two key concepts: the gathering of information from experts, namely knowledge transfer; and making connections between them, namely knowledge integration. Nevertheless, challenges have been noted in terms of academic tribes that impede teamwork, and, importantly, the lack of combined thought and action in R&D. This research, which is compiled as two journal articles, explored the collaboration, between disciplines, that has been described as the means of meeting the requirements of transdiscplinary R&D to identify, structure, analyse and deal with specific problems in such a way that it can: grasp the complexity of problems; take into account the diversity of life-world and scientific perceptions of problems; link abstract and case-specific knowledge; and develop knowledge and practices that promote what is perceived to be the common good. However, the latter brings into question how values and culture influence collaboration and thus transdisciplinary R&D efforts. The first article set out to investigate, from a literature analysis, how the culture and values of individuals in a transdisciplinary R&D team, as well as those of the organisation, determine the potential success or failure of the R&D effort. A conceptual framework is derived based on the theories of complexity, as it relates to knowledge management, learning within organisations, cognitive and behavioural approaches to culture and values, and communication. The framework also builds on previous research that has been conducted with respect to the management of transdisciplinary R&D. The second article then utilises the introduced conceptual framework for an in-depth investigation of a case study in the bioenergy field. The R&D project, which spanned over three years in South Africa, required a transdisciplinary team of engineers and scientists of various fields to collaborate with stakeholders outside the R&D team. The case emphasises that the lack of disciplines to recognize, understand and incorporate values and culture into R&D practices will lead to project failure; pre-empting and managing expectations of social change (often) far outweigh the necessity for technological change. A number of recommendations are thus made to improve R&D practices.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die opkomende klassifikasie van Volhoubaarheid-georiënteerde Innovasie Sisteme plaas 'n klem op die sosiale elemente van verandering, sowel as die tegnologiese. Volhoubaarheid-georiënteerde probleme is egter te groot vir een persoon of dissipline om te verstaan, dus neig individue om saam te wil werk, wat beteken dat hulle spanne vorm. As 'n verdere uitbreiding om volhoubaarheidgeoriënteerde probleme aan te spreek, is daar 'n toenemende klem op transdissiplinêre navorsing en ontwikkeling (N&O) pogings, waardeur mede-produksie grense oortree, en die wetenskap sigbaar word voor dit sekerheid bereik. Om die doelwitte van transdissiplinêre N&O pogings te bereik sal twee sleutelkonsepte vereis: die insameling van inligting van deskundiges, naamlik die oordrag van kennis, en die maak van skakels tussen hulle, naamlik kennis integrasie. Desondanks is die uitdagings wel bekend in terme van akademiese stamme wat spanwerk belemmer, en, baie belangrik, die gebrek aan gekombineerde denke en optrede in N&O. Hierdie navorsing, wat saamgestel is as twee joernaal artikels, ondersoek die samewerking, tussen dissiplines, wat al beklemtoon is vir die vereistes van transdissiplinêre N&O om spesifieke probleme te identifiseer, struktuur, ontleed en hanteer in 'n manier wat: die kompleksiteit van probleme op 'n verstaanbare wyse beskryf; rekening hou met die diversiteit van die lewe-wêreld en wetenskaplike persepsies van probleme; abstrakte en geval-spesifieke kennis skakel; en die ontwikkeling van kennis en praktyke bevorder wat beskou word as die algemene goed. Maar die laasgenoemde bring in twyfel hoe die waardes en kultuur samewerkings, en dus transdissiplinêre N&O pogings, beïnvloed. Die eerste artikel, met behulp van 'n literatuur-analise, ondersoek hoe die kultuur en waardes van individue in 'n transdissiplinêre N&O span, sowel as dié van die organisasie, die potensiële sukses of mislukking van die N&O poging bepaal. 'n Konseptuele raamwerk is afgelei wat gebaseer is op die teorieë van kompleksiteit, soos dit verband hou met die bestuur van kennis, leer binne organisasies, kognitiewe en gedrag benaderings tot kultuur en waardes, en kommunikasie. Die raamwerk bou op vorige navorsing wat gedoen is met betrekking tot die bestuur van transdissiplinêre N&O. Die tweede artikel gebruik dan die konseptuele raamwerk vir 'n in-diepte ondersoek van 'n gevallestudie in die gebied van bio-energie. Die N&O-projek, wat gestrek het oor 'n tydperk van drie jaar in Suid- Afrika, het van 'n transdissiplinêre span van ingenieurs en wetenskaplikes, van verskeie gebiede, verwag om saam te werk met belanghebbendes buite die N&O-span. Die gevallestudie beklemtoon die gebrek van dissiplines om waardes en kultuur te erken, verstaan en inkorporeer in N&O-praktyke wat sal lei tot die mislukking van sulke projekte; vooruitskatting en die bestuur van die verwagtinge van sosiale verandering is (dikwels) veel swaarder as die noodsaaklikheid van tegnologiese verandering. 'n Aantal aanbevelings word derhalwe gemaak om N&O praktyk te verbeter.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/20012
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