A critical realist inquiry in conducting interdisciplinary research: An analysis of LUCID examples

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T1 - A critical realist inquiry in conducting interdisciplinary research

T2 - Ecology and Society

AU - Nastar, Maryam

AU - Boda, Chad

AU - Olsson, Lennart

PY - 2018

Y1 - 2018

N2 - The scale and complexity of contemporary sustainability challenges necessitates interdisciplinarity in research and pluralism in practice. In recent year, however, a strong natural science hegemony has predominantly framed our understanding of the dynamics of nature and society. This strong hegemonic conceptualization of global predicaments is troublesome given both the drivers of sustainability challenges and the agents with the capacity to address them are social and require insights from the social sciences. In this article, we analyze the process and outcomes of one of the pioneers in the world to provide a platform for advancing sustainability science and interdisciplinary research with a heavy emphasis on social science; namely, the Lund University Centre of Excellence for Integration of the Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability (LUCID). We, first, identify a consistent set of criteria for evaluating interdisciplinary research processes and outcomes. Second, we apply these criteria in an analysis of a selection of scholarly work produced at LUCID. Third, we evaluate the impacts of LUCID’s institutional settings on the process of interdisciplinary research. Finally, we assess to what degree the outcomes of LUCID research have managed to produce satisfactory explanations of concrete sustainability challenges.Our analysis of the LUCID work suggests that the synthetic integrated knowledge required to analyze and address complex sustainability challenges is more likely to be produced if researchers employ retroductive logic and adhere to the principles of methodological pluralism. We stress in particular the importance of institutional settings in supporting such research, both in terms of finance and administration as well as in providing a conducive intellectual environment wherein authentic interdisciplinarity can emerge. Maintaining the kinds of horizontal and vertical integration characteristic of such conducive institutional settings, however, poses a major challenge in light of current trends, at least in Sweden, towards more compartmentalized, disciplinary university structures.

AB - The scale and complexity of contemporary sustainability challenges necessitates interdisciplinarity in research and pluralism in practice. In recent year, however, a strong natural science hegemony has predominantly framed our understanding of the dynamics of nature and society. This strong hegemonic conceptualization of global predicaments is troublesome given both the drivers of sustainability challenges and the agents with the capacity to address them are social and require insights from the social sciences. In this article, we analyze the process and outcomes of one of the pioneers in the world to provide a platform for advancing sustainability science and interdisciplinary research with a heavy emphasis on social science; namely, the Lund University Centre of Excellence for Integration of the Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability (LUCID). We, first, identify a consistent set of criteria for evaluating interdisciplinary research processes and outcomes. Second, we apply these criteria in an analysis of a selection of scholarly work produced at LUCID. Third, we evaluate the impacts of LUCID’s institutional settings on the process of interdisciplinary research. Finally, we assess to what degree the outcomes of LUCID research have managed to produce satisfactory explanations of concrete sustainability challenges.Our analysis of the LUCID work suggests that the synthetic integrated knowledge required to analyze and address complex sustainability challenges is more likely to be produced if researchers employ retroductive logic and adhere to the principles of methodological pluralism. We stress in particular the importance of institutional settings in supporting such research, both in terms of finance and administration as well as in providing a conducive intellectual environment wherein authentic interdisciplinarity can emerge. Maintaining the kinds of horizontal and vertical integration characteristic of such conducive institutional settings, however, poses a major challenge in light of current trends, at least in Sweden, towards more compartmentalized, disciplinary university structures.

KW - anti-reductionism

KW - Critical Realism

KW - interdisciplinary research centers

KW - methodological pluralism

KW - retroduction

KW - sustainability science.

U2 - 10.5751/ES-10218-230341

DO - 10.5751/ES-10218-230341

M3 - Article

VL - 23

JO - Ecology and Society

JF - Ecology and Society

SN - 1708-3087

IS - 3

M1 - 41

ER -