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Hallett LM, RJ Standish, KB Hulvey, MR Gardener, KN Suding, BM Starzomski, SD Murphy, JA Harris and CR Nelson (2013) Towards a conceptual framework for the management of novel ecosystems. In: RJ Hobbs, ES Higgs and CM Hall (Eds.) Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the new ecological world order. Wiley-Blackwell, UK

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The complex problems associated with global change processes calls for close collaboration between science disciplines to create new, integrated knowledge. In the wake of global change processes, forests and other natural environments have been rapidly changing, highlighting the need for collaboration and integrative research development. Few tools are available to explore the potential for collaborations in research ventures that are just starting up. This study presents a useful approach for exploring and fostering collaborations between academics working in research teams and organizations comprising multiple science disciplines (i.e., multi-disciplinary). The research aim was to reveal potential barriers, common ground, and research strengths between academics working in a new centre focused on forest and climate change research. This aim was based on the premise that raising awareness and working with this acquired knowledge fosters collaborations and integrative research development. An email survey was deployed amongst the academics to obtain: (i) their understanding of common themes (e.g., climate change, scale of investigation, woodland/forest health/decline); (ii) descriptions of the spatial and temporal scales of their research; and (iii) their approach and perceived contributions to climate change research. These data were analysed using a semi-quantitative content analysis approach. We found that the main potential barriers were likely to be related to differences in understanding of the common research themes, whilst similarities and disciplinary strengths provided critical elements to foster collaborations. These findings were presented and discussed amongst the centre academics to raise awareness and create a dialogue around these issues. This process resulted in the development of four additional research projects involving multiple disciplines. The approach used in this study provides a useful methodology of broader benefit to similar multi-disciplinary research teams and organizations elsewhere.