Pooley SP, JA Mendelsohn and EJ Milner-Gulland (2013) Hunting Down the Chimera of Multiple Disciplinarity in Conservation Science. CONSERVATION BIOLOGY 28(1):22-32

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The consensus is that both ecological and social factors are essential dimensions of conservation research and practice. However, much of the literature on multiple disciplinary collaboration focuses on the difficulties of undertaking it. This review of the challenges of conducting multiple disciplinary collaboration offers a framework for thinking about the diversity and complexity of this endeavor. We focused on conceptual challenges, of which 5 main categories emerged: methodological challenges, value judgments, theories of knowledge, disciplinary prejudices, and interdisciplinary communication. The major problems identified in these areas have proved remarkably persistent in the literature surveyed (c.1960-2012). Reasons for these failures to learn from past experience include the pressure to produce positive outcomes and gloss over disagreements, the ephemeral nature of many such projects and resulting lack of institutional memory, and the apparent complexity and incoherence of the endeavor. We suggest that multiple disciplinary collaboration requires conceptual integration among carefully selected multiple disciplinary team members united in investigating a shared problem or question. We outline a 9-point sequence of steps for setting up a successful multiple disciplinary project. This encompasses points on recruitment, involving stakeholders, developing research questions, negotiating power dynamics and hidden values and conceptual differences, explaining and choosing appropriate methods, developing a shared language, facilitating on-going communications, and discussing data integration and project outcomes. Although numerous solutions to the challenges of multiple disciplinary research have been proposed, lessons learned are often lost when projects end or experienced individuals move on. We urge multiple disciplinary teams to capture the challenges recognized, and solutions proposed, by their researchers while projects are in process. A database of well-documented case studies would showcase theories and methods from a variety of disciplines and their interactions, enable better comparative study and evaluation, and provide a useful resource for developing future projects and training multiple disciplinary researchers.