Opportunities and Challenges to Increase Inter- and Transdisciplinarity: A Qualitative Study of the FloodRISE Project

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Julien Forbat


Background: The FloodRISE project, which started in 2013 in Southern California, aimed at better understanding how to promote resilience to coastal flooding. It was based on a cross-disciplinary approach, involving several research teams and local communities.

Purpose: We conducted a qualitative study of the first phase of the project (2013-2015) in order to analyze its inter- and transdisciplinary aspects.

Setting: We conducted this evaluation as a visiting postdoctoral researcher at UCI, not participating in the FloodRISE project.

Intervention: Not applicable.

Research design: We conducted 18 semi-structured interviews with members of the three project teams - modeling, social ecology and integration & impact - at UCI in 2015. Data were analyzed and interpreted to identify key aspects of the collaboration within and between project teams, as well as their relationship to local stakeholders.

Findings: The analysis showed that an intensive dialogue-based method of interaction and the presence of boundary researchers played a fundamental role in bridging the conceptual and methodological gaps between social and engineering sciences. These results thus exemplify several possibilities for developing more efficient interactions between researchers in a cross-disciplinary project. However, any cross-disciplinary project should: carefully evaluate potential for participants to become boundary researchers, since participants with multiple disciplinary expertise may be underemployed; improve researchers’ level of readiness, in order to facilitate further interaction and increase time efficiency; and clearly address remoteness issues to avoid lower collaboration between central and peripheral locations.

Keywords: interdisciplinarity; transdisciplinarity; qualitative study; project evaluation; flood risk


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FORBAT, Julien. Opportunities and Challenges to Increase Inter- and Transdisciplinarity: A Qualitative Study of the FloodRISE Project. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, [S.l.], v. 16, n. 35, p. 32-47, july 2020. ISSN 1556-8180. Available at: <https://journals.sfu.ca/jmde/index.php/jmde_1/article/view/625>. Date accessed: 04 dec. 2020.