Challenges for Research and Practice in Distributed, Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Challenges for Research and Practice in Distributed, Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Caroline Haythornthwaite (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), Karen J. Lunsford (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA), Geoffrey C. Bowker (Santa Clara University, USA) and Bertram C. Bruce (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-717-1.ch007
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As private sector and government research increasingly depends on the use of distributed, interdisciplinary and collaborative teams, particularly in scientific endeavors, we are faced also with an increased need to understand how to work in and study such teams. While much attention has been paid to issues of knowledge transfer, the impact of many other consequences of distribution—disparate disciplines, institutions, career paths, time zones and technologies—have been understudied and underestimated. In this chapter, we describe how distributed, interdisciplinary work puts pressure on existing disciplinary, institutional and personal practices—many of which are second nature to team members, and thus easily overlooked. Reflecting on our own and others’ studies of such teams, and our group’s experiences as a distributed, interdisciplinary and collaborative unit, we describe some key challenges facing such teams, including issues relating to working and learning together as experts, defining and crossing boundaries, managing external relations and working with and through technologies.

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