Shared Protocol Development for Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: A Report from the Trenches
Tyler Quiring, Catherine M. Ashcraft, Bridie McGreavy, Natallia Leuchanka, Emma Fox, Sharon Klein, Caroline Gottschalk Druschke, Emma Lundberg, Emily Vogler, Scheri Fultineer, Sarah Vogel, Samuel Roy, Karen Wilson, Jessica Jansujwicz, Brawley Benson, Kaitlyn Raffier, Kevin Gardner, & David Hart

Paper presented at the American Association of Geographers Conference, Washington, DC in April 2019

What it’s about: Coordinating research design across a large team with diverse interests

Abstract: Challenging real-world problems are increasingly addressed by research teams that collaborate across a host of academic disciplines, institutions, jurisdictions, and ranks. As such collaborations become more common, integration of research findings and engagement techniques becomes paramount to producing nuanced and useful science. However, integration can only go so far when undertaken as a serious focus only in the late stages of collaborative research. In this presentation, we reflect on the commitments, infrastructures, and processes required for integrating diverse knowledge and procedures in the early stages of research design. We describe our experiences as members of a stakeholder engagement working group on the Future of Dams project, a National Science Foundation-funded effort producing interdisciplinary science to support decision making about dams. On this project, we leveraged shared resources such as robust governance documents and working agreements, a unified Institutional Review Board process, and cloud-based digital collaboration tools to collectively design a shared semi-structured interview protocol over the course of a year. The process allowed us to negotiate perspectives on the limits of collaboration and the importance of identifying and attending to research paradigms and related goals. The resulting protocol has been used extensively by our team, providing a framework for coordinating stakeholder engagement, sharing data and insights, synthesizing analyses, and catalyzing further engagement and collaboration. Our protocol and related processes have also revealed intersections of power, social justice, and research relevance that may be applicable to other teams performing engaged, solutions-oriented research in natural resource contexts.