Ingredients for Collaboration: Vision and Playfulness
With around 8,000 academic and administrative employees, 15 faculties and more than 45,000 students, the University of Münster offers plenty of opportunities for networking and teamwork – locally, nationally and internationally. In a dossier published over the past six months, the Comms and PR Department has taken a close look at the theme of collaboration in all its many facets, showing up all the opportunities and challenges it presents. To round off the dossier, three international universities provide insights into their work.
Interdisciplinary Research Needs Infrastructure
In order to understand complex problems and gain new insights, collaboration in research plays a decisive role. Interdisciplinary collaborations are especially important as they enable different perspectives and specialist knowledge to be combined, and this leads to innovative understanding. At the University of Vienna, interdisciplinary collaboration is promoted very forcefully, and the research platform “The Challenges of Urban Futures” (www.urban-futures.at) is a good example of this. This platform brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines and ages: from Anthropology and Geography to Computer Science, Ecology and Sociology. Working together, we think about the challenges which cities are experiencing and carry out research on topics such as mobility and migration, social justice, urban development and the environment. Progressive urbanisation, and the climate change which goes hand in hand with this, represent enormous changes to our lives. This is why collaboration between different disciplines is indispensable – not only for a better understanding of the complex contexts in which this transformation is taking place, but also to examine issues of social justice arising from the consequences of various solutions.
But interdisciplinarity is often a challenge, as every researcher has their own scientific background and their own approach. For this reason, what any successful collaboration requires from researchers is openness and a willingness not only to understand unfamiliar perspectives but also to take them into account in their own approach. In other words, successful collaboration can not only provide us with valuable insights and solutions, but can also contribute to improving communication between disciplines, and in consequence – as in a virtuous circle – lead to a better understanding of complex contexts, as well as to new research questions.
Prof. Yuri Kazepov works at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Vienna.
ERCIS – Living Networks in Business Information Systems
We at the University of Liechtenstein are very happy to be a member of the European ERCIS Network – the European Research Center for Information Systems. In my opinion, this network, set up almost 20 years ago at the University of Münster, is a good example of interdisciplinarity and networking. ERCIS crosses over several borders which often exist not only regionally but also from an institutional and subject-related point of view.
(1) ERCIS crosses regional borders: centres working on and with business information systems in around 30 countries are members of ERCIS, collaborating on joint research projects, publications and teaching. What I always find inspiring is the variety of perspectives which colleagues and students contribute daily.
(2) As a result, ERCIS also overcomes institutional borders. We think far beyond chairs, institutes, faculties and even universities. What I find fascinating is to be part of a pan-European structure and, as such, to be able to act in a different way with others. I find it exciting to gain new insights which arise when we combine contributions from different perspectives.
(3) Finally, ERCIS also overcomes the borders between disciplines: after all, it is not the discipline which is the focus, but the phenomenon. For me it’s exciting to gain new insights which arise when we combine contributions from different perspectives with one another.
One example of my work at ERCIS is “Process Science”. Process Science is not only interdisciplinary but can actually be described as post-disciplinary as we go beyond thinking in disciplines and move the phenomenon of change to centre stage. We use a wide variety of data sources, especially digital traces from sensor networks, social media or even “wearables” such as Smart watches and fitness trackers. In this way, we can recognise, define and also understand changes and, as a result, also develop innovative methods and tools for coping with the wide variety of changes taking place nowadays. What makes ERCIS so unique and this collaboration so successful? For me, after all these years, there is a clear answer to this question: it is personal relationships. Many institutions talk about interdisciplinarity and networking, but not many actually live them out in practice. Trust and esteem, a strong shared vision, a touch of craziness and a lot of playfulness – these are important ingredients in the fantastic collaboration in ERCIS, and ones which fascinate me so much in this network.
Dr. Jan vom Brocke is Professor of Information Systems and Business Process Management at the University of Liechtenstein.
The “RESILIENCE” Project
In 2021, the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures recognised the European Research Infrastructure for Religious Studies as a part of the European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures. RESILIENCE is an interdisciplinary research infrastructure which provides resources and services to scholars from all disciplines who deal with religions in their diachronical and synchronical variety.
13 academic research institutions from more than eleven European and associated countries – including the University of Münster – are members of the network. The aim is to promote high-quality research in Religious Studies and Theology and to respond to the challenges in European societies and in the associated religious diversity which exists.
RESILIENCE offers a combination of multi-disciplinary expertise and technological support for the scientific development and dissemination of knowledge on a specific subject: religion. The aim is to encourage researchers in the community to work together across disciplines and, in doing so, to cross the borders which exist within the Social Sciences and the Humanities. The combination of a subject-related and an infrastructural approach makes RESILIENCE a place where different methodologies and disciplinary approaches meet, thus leading to further interdisciplinary issues and projects. Key to such an approach are the people and the research questions. The range of disciplines represented by the experts who are involved in RESILIENCE is large and diverse.
The network takes time for users, suggesting new sources, providing input from different disciplinary perspectives, encouraging the adoption of new technological tools, and helping in the use of dedicated services. None of the tools and services that RESILIENCE is, and will be, able to offer in future can be successful without driving research questions – questions which take the best of digital developments in the Social Services and the Humanities and put it at the service of knowledge. This is what, in the end, we do at RESILIENCE: we serve research, in order to create knowledge.
Dr. Francesca Cadeddu is one of the Executive Directors of RESILIENCE in Bologna, Italy.
This article is from the university newspaper wissen|leben No. 5, 12 July 2023.