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Disciplining Interdisciplinarity

Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: Integration and Implementation Sciences for Researching Complex Real-World Problems OPEN ACCESS

Gabriele Bammer
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbkj5
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  • Book Info
    Disciplining Interdisciplinarity
    Book Description:

    This book provides collaborative research teams with a systematic approach for addressing complex real-world problems like widespread poverty, global climate change, organised crime, and escalating health care costs. The three core domains are 1. Synthesising disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, 2. Understanding and managing diverse unknowns, and 3.Providing integrated research support for policy and practice change. Each of these three domains is organised around five questions 1. For what and for whom? 2. Which knowledge, unknowns and aspects of policy or practice? 3. How? 4. Context? 5. Outcome? This simple framework lays the foundations for developing compilations of concepts, methods and case studies about applying systems thinking, scoping and boundary setting, framing, dealing with values, harnessing and managing differences, undertaking dialogue, building models, applying common metrics, accepting unknowns, advocacy, end-user engagement, understanding authorisation, dealing with organisational facilitators and barriers, and much more. The book makes a case for a new research style—integrative applied research—and a new discipline of Integration and Implementation Sciences or I2S. It advocates for progressing these through an I2S Development Drive. It builds on theory and practice-based research in multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity, post-normal science, systemic intervention, integrated assessment, sustainability science, team science, mode 2, action research and other approaches. The book concludes with 24 commentaries by Simon Bronitt; L. David Brown; Marcel Bursztyn and Maria Beatriz Maury; Lawrence Cram; Ian Elsum; Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski; Fasihuddin; Howard Gadlin and L. Michelle Bennett; Budi Haryanto; Julie Thompson Klein; Ted Lefroy; Catherine Lyall; M. Duane Nellis; Linda Neuhauser; Deborah O’Connell with Damien Farine, Michael O’Connor and Michael Dunlop; Michael O’Rourke; Christian Pohl; Merritt Polk; Alison Ritter; Alice Roughley; Michael Smithson; Daniel Walker; Michael Wesley; and Glenn Withers. These begin a process of appraisal, discussion and debate across diverse networks.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-28-7
    Subjects: General Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Setting the Scene
    • The question that motivates this book is: ‘How can academic research enhance its contributions to addressing widespread poverty, global climate change, organised crime, escalating healthcare costs or the myriad other major problems facing human societies?’ I analyse the solution that has been most widely advocated—namely bringing together relevant disciplines through interdisciplinary teamwork. Indeed the 2004 US National Academies report Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research¹ declared that:

      Interdisciplinary thinking is rapidly becoming an integral feature of research as a result of four powerful ‘drivers’: the inherent complexity of nature and society, the desire to explore problems and questions that are not confined...

    • This chapter presents a preview of the disciplinary structure of I2S, which is developed in detail in Chapters 3 to 30. The starting point is the three domains that characterise integrative applied research and I2S: 1) synthesising disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, 2) understanding and managing diverse unknowns, and 3) providing integrated research support for policy and practice change.

      I then provide a series of definitions for terms used throughout the book. I have delayed presenting the definitions until now because it is only at this stage that all the terms have been introduced and fully explained.¹

      Returning to the main...

  2. Domain 1. Synthesising Disciplinary and Stakeholder Knowledge
    • 3. Introduction (pp. 29-32)

      As mentioned in Chapter 2, although the Commission’s work is a prime example of the first domain of integrative applied research, its published documents offer only limited clues about a number of key questions concerning the synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, such as how the scope of the problem was determined and the framing decided, as well as the methods and processes used for knowledge synthesis. This drawback is currently widespread in integrative applied research because there is no agreed way to describe such investigations. In this section I therefore expand on the five-question framework introduced in Chapter 2....

    • The purpose of this first question—‘What is the synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge aiming to achieve and who is intended to benefit?’—is to help integrative applied research teams think specifically about their objectives and beneficiaries, so that they target their efforts most effectively. This is important for two reasons. First, teams which undertake integrative applied research have often not thought clearly about what they are trying to achieve and find it very helpful to be pushed to do so. Second, in order for teams to choose the most appropriate options in terms of I2S concepts, methods and...

    • Defining the components of the question ‘Which disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge is synthesised?’ draws on the ideas previously developed in interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, integrated assessment and related approaches. Based on the thinking that underpins these innovative efforts, I suggest that there are six key, interrelated categories of concepts and methods: taking a systems view, scoping, boundary setting, framing, dealing with values, and harnessing or managing differences.¹

      The challenge is to find an approach that puts the real-world problem centre-stage and that makes it feasible to examine a range of discipline-based and stakeholder perspectives in a coherent and systematic way. To do...

    • 6. How? (pp. 45-50)

      There has been surprisingly little attempt to identify, let alone classify, methods for addressing the question ‘How is the disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge synthesised, by whom and when?’. One way to think about methods is to use three classes

      dialogue-based

      model-, product- or vision-based

      common metric-based.¹

      A brief description of each is presented next. Who undertakes the synthesis is then examined, followed by when in the research process it occurs.

      Dialogue-based methods use conversation to ‘jointly create meaning and shared understanding’.² Dialogue-based synthesis does not always need to use formal methods, especially when only a few people are involved. Structured...

    • 7. Context? (pp. 51-54)

      Developing a systematic way to take context into consideration—in other words, weighing up ‘What circumstances might influence the synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge?’ is an underdeveloped aspect of I2S.¹ Three areas are considered here: one general and two specific.

      1. The overall context of the problem. This is the circumstances that led to the research and that may be influential during its conduct, such as the problem’s history, the geographical locations in which it occurs and cultural differences between those affected and those charged with responding to the problem.

      2. The sources of authorisation or legitimacy for the...

    • 8. Outcome? (pp. 55-56)

      One advantage of the structured approach resulting from the five-question framework is that it also provides a systematic process for evaluation, relevant to question five: ‘What is the result of the synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge?’ Questions relevant for evaluation are presented in Box 8.1.

      Knowing what to evaluate is one thing, figuring out how to undertake the evaluation is another. In traditional disciplines, the research is assessed by others from that discipline through peer review.¹ Developing I2S as a discipline also makes peer review feasible for knowledge synthesis specifically, and for integrative applied research more generally. Those who...

    • Even after exploring only the first domain of I2S, it is clear that there are many specialist concepts, methods and skills that will assist integrative applied research teams to enhance their effectiveness—and that there are too many for experts in existing disciplines to simply add to their repertoires. I propose that there are three broad categories of I2S specialisation.

      1. I2S for team leaders. Leaders must know enough about I2S to be responsible for I2S processes, like deciding on the integrative applied research aims and who will undertake the knowledge synthesis.

      2. I2S disciplinary specialists. They must have detailed...

  3. Domain 2. Understanding and Managing Diverse Unknowns
    • 10. Introduction (pp. 63-76)

      The requirement to act in the face of widespread unknowns applies not only to problems like SARS, but also to other complex social and environmental challenges such as organised crime, global climate change and population ageing.³ There are two primary purposes in highlighting the importance of unknowns. One is to explain why actions taken to address complex real-world problems will inevitably be imperfect. As I explain later in this chapter, this is an unavoidable consequence of the characteristics of unknowns, especially that they are unlimited while ability to investigate them is constrained. Furthermore responding effectively to such inescapable imperfection is...

    • In this and the following four chapters, the five-question framework is used to provide starting points for more systematically understanding and managing diverse unknowns. Let us now address the first question: ‘What is the understanding and management of diverse unknowns aiming to achieve and who is intended to benefit?’ Basically there are three aims

      1. recognising that in considering complex real-world problems many different unknowns are relevant and require a range of responses

      2. acknowledging that there are no perfect answers to complex problems

      3. in the long term, assisting policy makers and practitioners in taking unknowns and imperfection into...

    • To examine the question ‘Which unknowns are considered?’, the elements introduced in Chapter 5 for knowledge synthesis—taking a systems view, scoping, boundary setting, framing, taking values into account and deciding which differences to harness and which to manage—are also relevant.

      Chapter 5 made the point that there is no one way to take a systems view, and that the various systems approaches provide diverse ways of looking at complex real-world problems. To the best of my knowledge, there is no comprehensive explication of how different systems views deal with unknowns, but it is possible to list a range...

    • 13. How? (pp. 85-94)

      In this chapter, addressing the framework question ‘How are diverse unknowns understood and managed, by whom and when?’ focuses on ways of responding to unknowns that move beyond the standard approaches in disciplines and that can encompass the diversity of unknowns. Dealing with imperfection is an area that has yet to be developed. Let us start by recapping how researchers are educated about unknowns in the disciplines. Becoming a skilled researcher requires mastering the ability to pick key unknowns (those that substantially move the discipline’s knowledge base forward and open up fertile areas for future research), which are targeted for...

    • 14. Context? (pp. 95-98)

      As with the first domain of knowledge synthesis, consideration of the framework question ‘What circumstances might influence the understanding and management of diverse unknowns?’ involves the historical, political or other background that led to the integrative applied research and that may be influential during its life, but in this domain context is viewed through the lens of unknowns rather than knowledge. The three areas for consideration then become

      determining which aspects of the context of the problem are important for the consideration of diverse unknowns, especially which unknowns will be taken into account and how

      understanding the sources of authorisation...

    • 15. Outcome? (pp. 99-100)

      In dealing with question five—‘What is the result of understanding and managing diverse unknowns?’—the structured approach presented in this book provides a way to assess how successfully unknowns were understood and managed. This can then provide the basis for future improvements. Questions relevant for evaluation are presented in Box 15.1.

      Given the current rough state of understanding about unknowns, many integrative applied research teams will find it difficult to answer the full range of questions presented above. Nevertheless, by raising awareness of what needs to be addressed, these questions may spark creativity in finding new and better ways...

    • The same three broad categories of I2S specialisation discussed for the first domain of knowledge synthesis are also relevant here, namely

      1. I2S for team leaders

      2. I2S disciplinary specialists

      3. I2S appreciation for other integrative applied research team members.

      As part of their responsibility for the whole project, team leaders must understand the importance, inevitability and complexity of unknowns, as well as the concomitant unavoidability of imperfection. They must be able to guide their teams through the challenges of: a) overconfidence, b) nihilism and despair, c) hindsight bias, and d) sanctioning incompetence and corruption. They must be able to...

  4. Domain 3. Providing Integrated Research Support for Policy and Practice Change
    • 17. Introduction (pp. 107-110)

      Peter Shergold’s remarks vividly illustrate the challenge for those seeking to bridge the so-called ‘know–do gap’. The point is not that researchers should be seeking to directly implement policy or practice change based on their investigations; indeed that is not their role (nor should it be).² But researchers must take a more realistic position when it comes to considering the policy and practice implications of their findings. Neither avoiding the issue nor taking a narrow idealistic position is tenable. I argue that a focus on research support is a productive way to think about the issues. For researchers, this...

    • The purpose of the question ‘What is the integrated research support aiming to achieve and who is intended to benefit?’ is to help teams move beyond general (often fuzzy) ideas about the impact they want to see towards a clearer assessment of who might benefit from their research findings and how to best transmit these results to that target policy or practice audience.

      The intention of this question is to help integrative applied research teams clarify the objectives of their implementation activities, not to force them to take a strong position. Indeed integrative applied research teams will not always have...

    • In considering the question ‘Which aspects of policy and practice are targeted by the provision of integrated research support?’, the focus is different from the first two domains of knowledge synthesis and unknowns; it is not on the problem, but on the government, business and civil society arenas where support can be provided to those in a position to bring about change. Nevertheless, the six categories of concepts and methods (taking a systems view, scoping, boundary setting, framing, taking values into account and deciding which differences to harness and which to manage) still apply.

      Whereas taking a systems view in...

    • 20. How? (pp. 125-136)

      One of the functions of the discipline of I2S is to provide options for answering the question ‘How is integrated research support provided, by whom and when?’, along with information on the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.¹ Staying with the focus on government policy making, the task is to help teams move beyond the two common positions Peter Shergold articulated (lack of interest in policy and narrow prescriptions for policy) to a better appreciation of the range of possibilities for providing integrated research support for Shergold’s ‘beguiling’ art. Let me be clear that I am not advocating any particular...

    • 21. Context? (pp. 137-140)

      The relevant question here is ‘What circumstances might influence the provision of integrated research support for policy and practice change?’. Again, this is examined in light of the pertinent big-picture background (in other words, overall context), authorisation, and organisational barriers and facilitators.

      A key issue is to examine the problem in relation to the arenas where action will be taken: government, business and civil society. This involves taking a broader view of how research can support policy and practice change than that dealt with under question two (Which aspects of policy and practice are targeted by the provision of integrated...

    • 22. Outcome? (pp. 141-144)

      In considering question five—‘What is the result of the provision of integrated research support?’—the structured framework discussed in the previous four chapters provides a systematic approach to assessment, through questions shown in Box 22.1.

      As discussed in Chapter 8, developing I2S as a discipline makes peer review feasible as an evaluation process, as is the case in traditional disciplines. For this domain, those who have been involved in the provision of integrated research support for policy and practice change are in the best position to act as reviewers, employing the questions described above. Nevertheless there are particular challenges...

    • In addition to the three broad categories of I2S specialisation discussed for the first two domains—1) I2S for team leaders, 2) I2S disciplinary specialists, and 3) I2S appreciation for other integrative applied research team members—a fourth is also considered here: I2S appreciation for policy makers and practitioners.

      In taking responsibility for this domain and the project overall, team leaders provide guidance about how the integrated research can best support policy and practice change. They oversee decision making in two important areas. First, assessments must be made about which arena—government, business and/or civil society—their teams are in...

  5. I2S As A Whole
    • 24. Introduction (pp. 153-156)

      This section brings together and examines the interactions among the three domains: synthesising disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, understanding and managing diverse unknowns and providing integrated research support for policy and practice change. While it is helpful to differentiate between the domains to make research on complex real-world problems manageable, it is also important to remember that such distinctions are a construct, that the boundaries are not sharply defined and that what happens at the interfaces of the domains must be taken into account. There are different kinds of interactions, which include the following.

      Phenomena that are not very evident in...

    • The purpose of this first question—‘What is the integrative applied research aiming to achieve and who is intended to benefit?’—is to help teams think specifically about their objectives and beneficiaries, so that they direct their efforts most effectively. Asking the related question of each domain helps ensure that no aspect of integrative applied research is ignored or downplayed and enables separate assessment of the success of the research undertaken in each domain. Hence, this question sets out to provide clarity about

      1. the purpose of the knowledge synthesis

      2. the importance of thinking expansively about unknowns and how...

    • To examine the second question—‘What is the integrative applied research dealing with—that is, which knowledge is synthesised, unknowns considered and aspects of policy and practice targeted?’—each of the categories of concepts and methods, first introduced in Chapter 5, is reviewed in turn. Hence consideration is given to taking a systems view, scoping, boundary setting, framing, taking values into account, and harnessing and managing differences.

      In viewing the three domains together, there are two different systems to consider: the problem and the policy or practice arena. It is important to re-emphasise the key point made in earlier chapters...

    • 27. How? (pp. 169-172)

      In bringing together the three domains to consider the third question—‘How is the integrative applied research undertaken (the knowledge synthesised, diverse unknowns understood and managed, and integrated research support provided), by whom and when?’—the task is to consider both the interactions between the methods and how congruent they are with each other. To recap, the methods described for each domain are presented in Table 27.1.

      Three issues are dealt with in more depth here

      1. the value of some methods for more than one domain

      2. achieving congruence between the methods used across the three domains

      classification using...

    • 28. Context? (pp. 173-180)

      I want to take the discussion of question four—‘What circumstances might influence the integrative applied research?’—further than in earlier chapters. The starting point is still that context involves the circumstances that led to the research, may be influential during its life and are likely to affect the provision of integrated research support. But let us extend this to consider that context is the influence on the research of the real world in all its complexity and unpredictability. Then it becomes clear that even something as straightforward as understanding the circumstances that led to the research is likely to...

    • 29. Outcome? (pp. 181-188)

      Considering question five—‘What is the result of the integrative applied research?’—re-emphasises that one advantage of the structured approach is that it provides a framework for evaluation. Evaluation is essential for improving how the I2S discipline operates. Although this chapter is framed around assessing completed integrative applied research, evaluation is also important at the beginning—for instance, in deciding whether a proposal to undertake such research will be funded. In either case, the methodology has to be adequately described to allow the research to be fairly appraised, as well as to make it clear when something new is planned,...

    • One purpose of this book is to demonstrate that there are many specialist concepts, methods and skills to assist integrative applied research teams enhance their effectiveness. I also argue that these cannot simply be add-ons to other disciplinary expertise, but require a dedicated discipline of their own. As a consequence there will be I2S disciplinary specialists. Nevertheless, other members of integrative applied research teams also require at least a basic understanding of I2S, with team leaders having specific I2S roles to fulfil. Finally, it is also beneficial for policy makers and practitioners who are likely to interact with integrative applied...

  6. Moving Forward
    • The bulk of this book has been about a framework for housing the expert knowledge that makes up the discipline of Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S) and the need for an I2S Development Drive to pull all the available materials together. This section, comprising four chapters, covers additional ideas about the functioning of I2S in integrative applied research teams. I conclude the current chapter by describing in more detail the virtuous cycle between capacity, demonstrated success and funding.

      Chapter 32 examines how I2S operates as a discipline and the parallels to be drawn with other disciplines, especially statistics. The focus...

    • What practical ideas about the operation of I2S can be drawn from other disciplines? As discussed in previous chapters, I have found statistics to be a particularly useful model for some key aspects of how I2S works. To recap briefly, both achieve effectiveness by interacting with other disciplines in a problem-focused approach. In the case of statistics, this involves improving research projects by enhancing their ability to tackle the quantitative aspects of problems. I2S plays an analogous role, improving the ability of integrative applied research teams to synthesise knowledge about the problem, better understand and manage remaining diverse unknowns and...

    • This chapter looks specifically at two of the initiatives that have informed this book: multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. I argue that rather than rating one better than the other (almost always transdisciplinarity is rated preferable to multidisciplinarity), both have advantages and disadvantages, making each more useful in some circumstances than others. Further, their attributes can be variously combined into hybrid approaches that will change the balance of benefits and shortcomings. The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate one of the core arguments of this book—namely that there are no perfect ways to investigate complex real-world problems, but there are...

    • Here I want to return to the point that there are thousands of research projects that can contribute concepts, methods and case examples applicable to I2S, as well as information for guides to relevant knowledge from outside the discipline. Because the germane material is currently scattered and often undocumented, compilation will require an intense, well-resourced I2S Development Drive to scour a wide range of relevant literatures and to find and write down currently unrecorded information. This chapter describes the scope of this effort and what is required to make the case for feasibility: establishing proof-of-concept and addressing countervailing forces. I...

  7. Commentaries
    • The invited commentaries that follow are designed to kick-start further conversations and debate as a first step in widespread discussion to progress thinking about the practicalities of undertaking more effective research on complex real-world problems. If there is to be a discipline of I2S (or even just a storehouse of concepts, methods, case studies and guides to relevant knowledge for researching complex real-world problems), it is going to require a large, committed group to carry the ideas forward—to reshape, rework and refine them. To do this effectively, group members will need to engage with each other, as well as...

    • Daniel Walker

      I have a research background in the dynamics of resource use at a variety of scales and play a leadership role in my organisation in developing the research capability needed to address issues of climate, biodiversity decline, water and food security, and energy transitions. Based on this experience, I see a manifest need for increasingly effective engagement by researchers in integration and implementation across a range of public policy domains. We do have strong understanding of many of the ways in which we use our natural resources and interact with the environment and therefore of consequent drivers of unsustainability. Nevertheless,...

    • Deborah O’Connell, Damien Farine, Michael O’Connor and Michael Dunlop

      This commentary is focused squarely on one of the challenges put to the commentators—namely ‘How do you see yourself in relation to I2S?’. It is based on the personal experiences, observations and reflections of the lead author after 20 years of working in integrated assessment projects in the water, energy and sustainability domains. I have applied the framework proposed by the book to the actual operation of a current project, which is developing and using integration methods in the absence of a formalised I2S disciplinary approach. Within this project, a core team provides much of the integration—and in...

    • Michael Smithson

      The primary rationale Bammer presents for envisioning I2S as a discipline is that it needs a storehouse of ideas, a network of specialists and its own organs for evaluating and disseminating new developments. Even if we accept this rationale, the notion of I2S-as-discipline still has some problems. I will attempt to address some of them by taking up Bammer’s fruitful analogy between statistics and I2S. I will argue that statistics is not a sufficient template, at least not for I2S at this stage in its development. Alternative templates can be found, and investigations of these lead to the notion that...

    • Alison Ritter

      I feel closely connected with Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S), having been both an observer and a recipient of its early development and subsequent evolution to this point. Working with Gabriele Bammer since 1996, I have been strongly engaged with and influenced by her work—and my research in the area of drug policy attests to this. The Drug Policy Modelling Program (DPMP) is a program of research and practice aimed at improving Australian illicit drug policy. Research is conducted to address gaps in the evidence base, provide tools for policy makers to better use research evidence and to study...

    • Alice Roughley

      This book establishes a sound theoretical framework for an I2S discipline. This framework is well supported by the recently published book of dialogue methods.² These methods will be central to the practice of I2S specialists who will work between professions, policy sectors, research methodologies, values and academic disciplines. The absolute brilliance of the book is that with the foundational research into dialogue methods it tackles the most critical integration methodology issue—that of analysing data generated through different disciplines and stakeholder perspectives/values.

      Section four of the book introduces the third domain of the I2S framework: integrated research support for policy...

    • Lawrence Cram

      A century after Kipling’s ‘The Sons of Martha’ and a half-century after Snow’s The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, vast publics remain unaware of the scale of their reliance on knowledge-based technical practice.² That Kipling and Snow caricatured their unaware publics as élites added piquancy to the situation. Snow’s position was particularly clear: ‘(literary) intellectuals are natural Luddites’, he wrote. The passing of the half-century since The Two Cultures has seen technology-based practice address many of society’s seemingly intractable challenges. Nonetheless, many publics (élite and otherwise) have become less aware of, and increasingly hostile towards, their reliance on science...

    • Catherine Lyall

      Disciplines confer many advantages, not least by placing boundaries around bodies of knowledge, which facilitates efficient teaching and provides guidance about adequate concepts and methodologies. Quality can often be more readily tested against disciplinary criteria. Set against this, the changing dynamics of the natural, social and political worlds mean that research funders are increasingly called upon to generate innovative solutions to multidimensional, policy-related problems on a regional, national or global scale. As complex problems of, for example, climate change or healthy ageing become more pressing, the ability of funders to deliver solutions to such challenges increasingly requires integration across disciplines...

    • Marcel Bursztyn and Maria Beatriz Maury

      In Brazil, as in other countries, researchers are increasingly working in interdisciplinary teams. In general this cooperation has not effectively leveraged the experiences of team members and the variety of concepts, methods and tools available in their original disciplines. Despite the development of interdisciplinary research and practice, and the exponential growth of interdisciplinary masters and doctoral programs (described below), there are still no initiatives to bring together the knowledge generated. There has been no large-scale attempt to gather the richness of integrative experiences, which are poorly documented and subjected to only very limited analysis. Nor are there standard procedures for...

    • L. David Brown

      I have worked at the intersections of research and practice for most of my career. My dissertation focused on efforts to understand and improve the functioning of a boarding school as a system for developing its students. I have worked on action research projects for organisation development in a variety of organisations and contexts. Over the past 30 years I have been particularly concerned with civil society initiatives to foster social transformations for poor and marginalised groups.² In addition to organisation building, those initiatives have often involved cross-organisation and cross-sector initiatives for problem solving at local, national and transnational levels....

    • Fasihuddin

      Seeing is believing. Agreed. It never happens unless it happens to you. Accepted. Practice makes perfect. No doubt about it. But what is the relation of all these sayings to this brief commentary? They have considerable relevance to my understanding of Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S), which stems from being a participant observer in a program for Asia-Pacific research leaders² where I not only studied my past work in light of I2S standards, but also visualised causes and effects, and their rational, cost-effective and indigenously devised solutions for the complex and hydra-headed problems faced by Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies and policy...

    • M. Duane Nellis

      The year 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which launched the democratisation of higher education in the United States. The Act, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, dedicated federal land and resources to the development and ongoing support of public universities in each State. Through this effort, people from all economic backgrounds were provided with greater access to higher education. Further, resources and faculty expertise in science, engineering and related disciplines at these institutions were committed to applied areas such as agriculture and natural resources to the benefit of each State. Often such research engaged stakeholders...

    • Ted Lefroy

      This commentary starts with responses to four questions posed by the book’s author, and finishes with some reflections on a recent interdisciplinary research project in the field of environmental management.

      First, I applaud the approach proposed in Chapter 34 of investing in systematic case studies of past practice to understand what approaches have been used in interdisciplinary research across a wide range of fields, what has worked and why. The book author has already contributed to this endeavour through publication of a handbook of dialogue methods appropriate to interdisciplinary research,² and to capture knowledge from many fields under the five-question...

    • Glenn Withers

      The original model of the university as it evolved in, say, medieval Oxford and Cambridge emphasised a tradition of scholarship and learning for personal development. This was the model of a teaching university focused on the transmission and interrogation of accrued knowledge so as to mould a person fit to manage a civilised life. The enterprise involved some substantial immersion by the student in the core arts and sciences, but left them to produce their own synthesis. The teachers were scholars who were specialists for the purpose of conveying their particular knowledge to their pupils who synthesised and assimilated the...

    • Simon Bronitt

      University-based researchers occupy a narrow ledge of legitimacy, striving for acceptance of their published research by academic peers and producing research that has an applied impact on the ‘real world’. Too much professional emphasis on one objective, to the detriment of the other, risks ridicule from either the academic or the policy/practice communities. Professor Bammer’s framework for the development of the I2S discipline shares these fundamental dilemmas of a scholar seeking to promote the value and legitimacy of their work outside the university research sector—namely attempting to balance the scientific imperative to do good discipline-based work with the desire...

    • Budi Haryanto

      In reading this book I was surprised to find that it reflected a wide variety of my work experiences, which were based on intuition, innovation and creativity rather than any scientifically structured arrangement. I never imagined that my environmental health research and its use in informing government policy were based on a theory. Let me provide some illustrations from my research on air pollution health impacts in Indonesia.

      I have been interested in studying the health effects resulting from the use of lead additives in gasoline in Indonesia since 1992. These had been banned in other countries since the 1980s...

    • Merritt Polk

      The framework presented in this book, with three domains (knowledge synthesis, managing unknowns and integrated policy support) and five focus areas (aims and beneficiaries, knowledge needs, methods, context and outcomes), lays the foundation for an overall approach to a new discipline for Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S). As noted repeatedly, there are many examples of research projects, educational programs and research centres around the world that are working with developing similar types of collaborative knowledge production and educational skills that can contribute to solving complex social and environmental problems. This commentary will present one such example that grapples with similar...

    • Michael O’Rourke

      Integrative applied research is a process of addressing consequential problems by: a) synthesising what is known about them by disciplinary experts and stakeholders, b) integrating that synthesis with a thoughtful response to what is unknown about them, and c) bringing the results to bear on both policy and practice aimed at ameliorating them. In the words of the US National Academies’ Committee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, work of this sort ‘has delivered much already and promises more—a sustainable environment, healthier and more prosperous lives, new discoveries and technologies to inspire young minds, and a deeper understanding of our place...

    • Howard Gadlin and L. Michelle Bennett

      After reading Gabriele Bammer’s majestic and inspiring manuscript along with commentaries by an array of distinguished colleagues, it seems almost churlish to express any qualms about I2S, a project that in principle represents the apotheosis of collaborative work conducted from multi- inter- and trans-disciplinary perspectives. While we share an interest and commitment to collaborative interdisciplinary research, we have concerns about both the desirability and the feasibility of establishing I2S as a distinct discipline. At the risk of being labelled latter-day Luddites, we will explore those concerns here. Mind you, although we raise questions about the notion of I2S as a...

    • Julie Thompson Klein

      Gabriele Bammer’s call for an I2S Development Drive in support of ‘integrative applied research’ comes at a crucial time in the history of interdisciplinarity. Publications and conference presentations proliferate across the academic sphere, amplified by calls for new approaches to research and education from professional associations, science policy bodies and other organisations. Yet, efforts are scattered, resulting in shortfalls of wisdom and practice. Some groups interact, but too many efforts have been isolated. Their collective existence affirms the importance and prominence of integrative applied research. Yet, groups are often small, marginal or, even when achieving a threshold point of size...

    • lan Elsum

      I have spent nearly 25 years grappling with the complexities of the strategic management of applied research. Most of my experience is with CSIRO—a large, diverse applied research and technology-transfer organisation²—where I have worked on increasing the effectiveness of the research effort at both whole-of-CSIRO and research division levels. This has been through strategic planning, investment and assessment, as well as work on the factors necessary for excellence in applied research.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the importance, and urgency, of the problem domain of Gabriele’s book: the use of integrative applied research to tackle complex real-world problems. Integrative...

    • Michael Wesley

      This book is the product of a long search by its author to systematise the mutually strengthening linkages among different fields of research and focusing their attentions on addressing real social problems. I must declare at the outset that I am a card-carrying partisan of this cause, having grown progressively disillusioned with discipline-bound research for its own sake, pursued solely for the purposes of reputation, seniority and bragging rights. Indeed I fear that the worldwide movement towards government-led ‘assessment’ of research performance, measured by appearances in the world’s ‘top’ journals, will further distort academic research towards discipline-bound research for its...

    • Christian Pohl

      When Gabriele Bammer made a presentation about her book Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods² at the 2009 international transdisciplinarity conference in Berne, Switzerland, the audience reaction was highly charged. The heated discussion was not, however, about the book, but that Gabriele had introduced it as a first book of methods for a new discipline. Some people were strongly challenged and somewhat upset by the idea. They insisted that a transdisciplinary or I2S discipline was a contradiction in terms and therefore impossible. In their view, transdisciplinary or I2S research is always a collaborative effort bringing together different disciplines and experts from...

    • Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski

      This commentary presents a perspective of integrative applied research and Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S) as they pertain to advancing research development activities² and team science.³

      The National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) facilitates research excellence and enables interdisciplinary research and collaborative partnerships affecting scientific and scholarly research projects at non-profit research institutions, predominantly academic institutions, across the globe. NORDP was established in 2010 as part of a grassroots movement to build a community of research development professionals driven to enhance the research enterprise at their institutions. Research development encompasses a set of strategic, proactive, catalytic and capacity-building activities...

    • Linda Neuhauser

      Gabriele Bammer’s book is a major contribution to address the critical area of applying scientific knowledge to successful action. In my view, the so-called ‘know–do gap’² is the single most important barrier to addressing the world’s seemingly intractable problems—from poverty to climate change. Integrative applied research has become an area of intense interest and debate. In my view, this is partly because so many efforts to solve difficult problems have failed, and partly because of major shifts in scientific thinking and processes over the past 50 years. I2S aligns well with the new scientific paradigm and offers a...