Subject: Theory of Science
Thesis title: Peerage and Judgment: How transdisciplinary collaborations recognize contributions without a consensus of meaning
Docent Anders Broström, Royal Institute of Technology/KTH, Stockholm
Research Professor Liv Langfeldt, Nordic institute for studies of innovation, research and education (NIFU), Oslo
Roger Strand, Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen
Substitute if member in the committee will be missing: Professor Merritt Polk, Göteborgs universitet
Opponent: Professor Edward Hackett, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, Arizona State University
Chair: Docent Christopher Kullenberg, Göteborgs universitet
This thesis concerns judgments of quality and belonging in transdisciplinary research (TD). TD includes academics from various disciplines and is open to participation from non-academics. TD typically aims to address societal problems and is argued to produce knowledge that is more nuanced than traditional disciplinary research due to the plurality of perspectives included.
The focus of this thesis is on the dynamics underlying judgments made by TD collaborations where members recognize each other as epistemic peers despite different conceptions of what it means for science to be good. To investigate these dynamics, I adopt a middle perspective that connects theoretical and empirical investigations. The thesis is a compilation of two theoretical and two empirical papers, and the middle-level theory is applied in the synopsis. This middle-level theory illuminates two central issues surrounding epistemic peerage in TD.
The first issue concerns the coordination of the demarcation of a TD collaboration and the collaboration across boundaries within the collaboration. The investigated cases illustrate how boundaries are drawn towards an outside of non-peers while the peers within the collaboration maintain a multiplicity of understandings. The core issue is that those within the collaboration cannot have world-views that are so different as to prevent them from recognizing each other as peers, while also not so similar that there can be no substantial exchanges across borders. I show how the investigated cases use hub-and-spoke concepts to coordinate demarcation and collaboration.
The second issue concerns which issues are kept open and closed for discussion within a TD collaboration. The aims of TD of production of nuanced knowledge with societal relevance and inclusive practices require an openness to discuss matters that would in other circumstances be considered closed facts. At the same time a certain amount of closedness is required to stabilize the collaboration. The cases in this thesis show how the question of which issues are kept open and closed is affected by the institutional environment of TD collaborations.