Challenges In Interdisciplinary Communication

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Interdisciplinary research has become increasingly important in tackling today’s wicked and complex issues (Rice, 2013). However in order to collaborate and share ideas on the myriad methods, concepts and theories offered by different disciplines, effective communication is necessary to create common ground and understanding within an interdisciplinary team. A number of communication obstacles can be faced when dealing with different disciplinary language, ideas and when dealing with individuals at a personal level. This is not only a challenge that pervades all stages of research but also a process that takes a significant amount of time and money to overcome (Strang, 2009). For newcomers who underestimate the challenges involved in interdisciplinary…show more content…
Each discipline is bounded by their own methodology, epistemology and knowledge that shape the language used and how one articulates themselves. As Wear (1999) notes (as cited in Bracken & Oughten, 2006), specific disciplines use terminology or ‘dialects’ which although sound like common language, can have different meanings and interpretation across the disciplines. The dangers of leaving a word unquestioned is the risk of non-experts acquiring a false sense of understanding which can ultimately snowball into further miscommunication and frustration as the discussion develops (Bracken & Oughten, 2006). In this respect, mentors can help to reflect on theses issues and facilitate dialogue on these language differences. This provides an opportunity for members to negotiate meanings and unpack certain assumptions and values attached to the word (Thompson, 2009). Even when the differences in language are apparent, mentors in this case can also facilitate discussion to find common ground. This would have been an asset when simulating the process of the European Eel management. As an example, stakeholders had different definitions attached to the word ‘sustainable’. Stakeholders such as HORECA and DUPAN labeled eel fishing as a sustainable practice given appropriate measures in catching, restocking and fishing eel. While our stakeholder, the good fish foundation did not recognize any sustainable method in fishing eel, considering its critically endangered status and the uncertainties surrounding the decline in the eel population. These fundamental difference became very apparent during our coalition meeting to set guidelines to improve food safety for consumers, which made finding common ground a time consuming process. In this setting, a mentor could have allowed us acknowledge our differences faster and guided us
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