Collaboration beyond disciplinary boundaries. How to make it work

When experts disagree, not over empirical facts, but over which methods to use, how to evaluate evidence, what counts as results and what's the most sustainable solutions, they need some conceptual and practical tools to communicate their disciplinary assumptions in more transparent and constructive ways. In the era of so-called "post-normal science", where facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent (S. Funtowicz and J.R. Ravetz 1993), the need for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration is vital. 

This webinar series aims at bringing together science and the humanities to discuss how we can best prepare the next generation of experts to work in interdisciplinary teams. In this NMBU PedPod episode, Elena Rocca explains the motivation for our work on interdisciplinarity and expert disagreement in sustainability research.


Silvio Funtowicz: Transdisciplinarity in post-normal science

The effort to provide advice for the Covid-19 pandemics, where facts are uncertain, values are in conflict, stakes high and decisions urgent, required interdisciplinary expertise. Covid-19 has taught us that Science doesn’t speak with one and undisputed voice. It also showed that the range of disciplines consulted was limited to a biomedical elite and economics, revealing the framing of the policy problem. We have still to learn that useful knowledge doesn’t speak only the language of science, requiring instead a transdisciplinary effort, where a plurality of styles of 'knowing-how' can complement the more disciplined 'knowing-that'.

Silvio Funtowicz is a philosopher of science and guest researcher at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT). His research is in the field of science and technology studies. Together with Jerome R. Ravetz, he introduced the concept of post-normal science, and his article Science for the post-normal age (1993) is still the most cited paper in its field in the journal Futures. The paper was republished in 2020 with a new foreword related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Letícia Antunes Nogueira: Practical guidance for applying co-production of knowledge

The adoption of co-production approaches in research projects has been increasingly demanded of scientists. While there is an extensive body of knowledge in science and technology studies on co-production of knowledge and post-normal science, project leaders are often unfamiliar with this literature and lack guidance on how to deal with the socio-cultural dynamics that affect knowledge production. In this webinar, Nogueira discusses these issues, including the role of social scientists in transdisciplinary research projects co-production of knowledge.

Leticia Antunes Nogueira is a senior researcher at the Nordland Research Institute, in Norway. Her research addresses questions of how value is created and captured in complex systems of industrial organization, the role of policy and social institutions in these processes, and the interplay between public and private goods and common-pool resources. Her research field concerns Industrial Dynamics, Socio-Technical Transitions, and Science, Technology and Innovation studies. She is especially focused in contexts related to the green shift in the energy and waste management sectors. Nogueira has also worked with questions concerning firm capabilities and behavior in dynamic environments, in which technological change lead to volatility and uncertainty. Leticia is author of the recently published paper 'Conducting Research in a Post-normal Paradigm: Practical Guidance for Applying Co-production of Knowledge', together with Maiken Bjørkan and Brigt Dale.

Samantha Copeland: Interdisciplinarity at the forefront of technology development – stories from Convergence

Samantha will talk about her current project, 'Converging Ethics for Converging Technologies', which brings together researchers and ethicists from a technical university (TU Delft) and a medical research center (Erasmus MC). Along with general reflections about this kind of effort to ‘converge’ current approaches in technology research, she will share one experience her project team has had, with the ‘Values Taking Shape’ toolkit - an effort to work at the intersection of ethics, collaborative communication, co-production and design to create a transdisciplinary space. In particular, Samantha will focus on how this project illustrates the need for continuing and fully embedded expertise in ethics, humanities and social sciences, within such institutional efforts and at the forefront of technology research and development. She will also address the need for humanities perspectives in science and technology education.

Samantha Copeland is a philosopher at Delft University of Technology, Department of Values, Technology & Innovation. She works regularly with urban planners, engineers, social scientists, designers, machine learning experts, biologists, physicians, and many other diverse researchers to integrate ethical evaluations into not only the education of students in STEM fields but also into the development of research questions and the very design of new technologies developed at the university. Her research is on the ethics of resilience and emerging medical technologies, situations where we do not know what to expect and yet have to prepare. She is co-founder of the interdisciplinary Serendipity Society

Andrew Eccles: Working across disciplines – embrace the pain!

Monday 1 November, 12-13am Oslo time, Zoom

Working across disciplines has always had its – evident – merits, but the complexities of policy change now required to deal with future challenges – climate change, demographics and patterns of work - to name but three, highlights the importance of the need for understanding about, and appreciation of, research across different disciplines. In this session I want to suggest that while this needs to happen it will not be straightforward, and that too often there is a rather glib commitment in principle which belies the complexities, and sometimes difficulties, of practice; hence the title! The three areas I will focus on are (a) tensions across research traditions (b) the politics of research and of inconvenient findings and (c) some current reflections of my engagement as a social scientist in a multi-disciplinary health technologies project.

Andrew Eccles' works at the School of Social Work & Social Policy, University of Strathclyde. His research interests are in policy making, policy implementation, and ethical issues arising from the use of digital technologies and self-management in health and social care. He previously chaired the Centre for Health Policy’s cross-faculties committee on health technologies research within the university. He has led commissioned research projects evaluating policy change across health and social care, and is currently in a multidisciplinary research team spanning five UK universities which is designing novel self-managed health care technologies.

Liv Anna Lindman: A call for plural perspectives and critical transdisciplinary thinking in economics

15 November, 12-13am Oslo time, Zoom: 

The effort to challenge economics, both the field itself and the teaching, has been part of a long campaign for pluralism in economics that can be traced back to the 70s, a time when the field had consolidated its position in universities world-wide - and increasingly became a leading field in social science with a growing influence on policy-making and governments. Today some people talk about "economics imperialism" - that the field is increasingly trying to use economic analysis on non-economic aspects of life. In this webinar Liv Anna will talk about how the modern field of economics is conserving barriers to transdisciplinarity. Has economics forgotten its own roots in moral philosophy, critical thinking and political science, and made the tools of the field more important than the societal goals? Can methodological pluralism be a path to more critical thinking in economics?  

Liv Anna Lindman is an activist in the global network “Rethinking Economics”, a network of academic scholars, students and engaged citizens that promotes pluralism in economics. She is also an economist working for the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, LO, at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Her master thesis at NMBU asked the question: “Are we educating economists for the 21st century”, criticizing the lack of relevance for society in current teaching of economics in universities in Norway. Liv Anna's research into the economics curriculum built on similar surveys completed by Rethinking Economics-students around the world arguing that the economics education is narrow, uncritical and detached from the real world. 

Some resources from Liv Anna Lindman:

Michela Massimi: Scientific knowledge across situated perspectives


In this talk, Massimi attends to two main tasks. First, she discusses the threefold value of interdisciplinary research in our society where scientific research has become increasingly specialised. Second, she presents the broad contours of an epistemological view that she has been articulating over the past years and is spelled out in her (March 2022) book Perspectival Realism where interdisciplinarity becomes an intrinsic feature of how one ought to think of scientific knowledge production via a plurality of situated scientific perspectives. She makes the case as to why scientific knowledge is inherently interdisciplinary. It is only an impoverished image of it that historically has relegated interdisciplinarity to the status of a mere add-on feature of it.

Michela Massimi is a philosopher of physics at the University of Edinburgh, and Principal Investigator of the ERC funded interdisciplinary research project 'Perspectival Realism. Science, Knowledge, and Truth from a Human Vantage Point'. Michela was Co-Editor in Chief of "The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science" (2011-2016), and Vice President of the European Philosophy of Science Association (2015-2019). She is currently President-Elect of the Philosophy of Science Association. In 2017, she was the first woman in the field of philosophy of science to be rewarded the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal in recognition of her work as a leading figure in the philosophy of science. You can watch her prize lecture here: Why philosophy of science matters to science.



Other confirmed speakers (dates to be announced):


Jennifer Joy West (CICERO and Noragric, NMBU): Interdisciplinarity in climate research. What are the challenges? (preliminary title)

Jennifer Joy West has 15 years of interdisciplinary research experience working at the intersection between climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, natural resource management and international development. She is also the incoming Head of Department of Noragric - International Environment and Development Studies at NMBU.

Sabina Leonelli (Egenis, Exeter University and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin): Big Data and interdisciplinarity: some challenges with re-using data across research contexts (preliminary title)

Sabina Leonelli is Co-Director of the Exeter Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis), where she leads the Data Studies research strand. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences and Associate Editor for the Harvard Data Science Review. She is currently based in Berlin as a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, working on "Excellence and Diversity in Global Scientific Practice".

Elaina Weber: How students are doing it: Practices and tools for facilitating interdisciplinarity

At NMBU's Learning Centre, we see students rising to the challenge of interdisciplinarity for sustainability. Students create their own tools and methods and apply them to complex issues within and without the university. This webinar reviews methods and tools from student-driven interdisciplinarity at NMBU and connects them to core competences in education for sustainable development.

Elaina Weber is an associate at the Learning Centre and helps coordinate the Writing Centre. As a master student in the International Environmental Studies program, she found herself and her classmates developing their own tools for knowledge co-creation, interdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity. She wrote her thesis on healthy and sustainable diets, a topic which incorporated public health and sustainability science through critical discourse analysis. Now, she works to further develop these tools through the Learning and Writing Centres. Her main project integrates digital storytelling as an examination method across the curriculum.


Published 9. August 2021 - 12:51 - Updated 2. December 2021 - 10:02