Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration and Scholarly Independence in Multidisciplinary Learning Environments at Doctoral Level and Beyond

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The aim of this study is to investigate how patterns of collaboration and scholarly independence are related to early stage researchers’ development in two multidisciplinary learning environments at a Swedish university. Based on interviews with leaders, supervisors, doctoral students, and post docs, results show how early stage researchers’ development is conditioned by their relative positions in time (career stage) and space (geographical and epistemic position). Through the theoretical notions of ‘epistemic living space’ and ‘developmental networks’, four ways of experiencing the multidisciplinary learning environment were distinguished. Overall, the environments provided a world of opportunities, where the epistemic living space entailed many possibilities for cross-disciplinary collaboration and development of scholarly independence among peers. However, depending on the members’ relative positions in time and space, this world became an alien world for the post docs who had been forced to become “over-independent” and find collaborators elsewhere. Moreover, it became an avoided world for absent mono-disciplinary supervisors and students who embodied “non-collective independence”, away from the environments’ community. By contrast, a joint world emerged for doctoral students located in the environment, which promoted their “independent positioning” and collaborative ambitions. Thus, early stage researchers’ collaboration and development of scholarly independence were optimised in a converged learning space, where the temporal and spatial conditions were integrated and equally conducive for learning. Based on these results, the authors provide suggestions for how to improve the integration of scholars who tend to develop away from the community because of their temporal and spatial positions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-433
Number of pages25
Issue number3
Early online date2020 Feb 22
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sept

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Educational Sciences

Free keywords

  • Doctoral students
  • Post docs
  • Collaboration
  • Scholarly independence
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Transdisciplinary


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