Lessons Learned for Interdisciplinary Collaboration on Socio-Environmental Problems



socio-environmental research focuses on balancing the needs of people and the environment interactions such as these influence the long-term sustainability of nature that in turn influences the quality of our lives there are many environmental problems and solving them is not easy it requires interdisciplinary teams because knowledge from the social and Natural Sciences must be integrated we have found that teams are most successful at tackling such problems when a few strategies are embraced the overall behavior of these systems that is the state of the environment and the people living there is determined by complex interactions and feedbacks to understand these collaborators must be eager to share the methods or theory specific to their disciplines for example how social drivers like laws or local practices influence the environment they must also be willing to consider what type of data are most useful for integration across the disciplines for example rates of primary production may be essential for understanding ecological processes but it's linked to water quality may be more useful in a social context members from different disciplines will bring different types of data that must be integrated in ways that are not obvious but there are well-developed methods to do this and computational experts can help but even before getting to data details it is critical that teams work together on the overall research strategy assuming everyone agrees that the outset can be a mistake so two environmental problems are by definition ambiguous there is no one solution or study path researchers from different disciplines may disagree and may even define the problem quite differently successful teams co-developed the research project from the very beginning they start by exploring ideas and work on building trust then they develop a research frame and there are many tools available for developing shared conceptual models which is the first step in code development facilitators with research backgrounds and with knowledge of team science can help P eyes of research teams can facilitate team interactions but it need not be limited to them there are many important roles all team members can play to ensure successful collaboration this ensures creative ideas and even disagreements come forward effective interdisciplinary research is iterative it's critical that the group as a whole revisit the roles and responsibilities of every team member repeatedly no matter the size of the team that size is related to novelty and impact of interdisciplinary research but this is because it reflects knowledge diversity among members but novelty emerges only if there is a team process in which members exchange discuss and integrate that knowledge overall the greatest secrets to success in interdisciplinary research are constant communication and openness to new ideas

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