Collaboration zones - On research leaders' views of collaboration
Cecilia Bjursell led this project on collaboration. Read the entire report (in Swedish) here Pdf, 1.1 MB..
Summary: If collaboration is the answer, then what is the question? Collaboration is often used in positive terms, but a strong focus on collaboration can also be seen as an indication that there is an underlying problem. Collaboration is the magic word that will open a university’s doors to society and deliver the riches hiding within.
One problem is that collaboration is an umbrella term that covers a host of different activities and processes. Another problem is that we know fairly little about collaboration from the researcher’s and teacher’s perspective. Previous studies have focused on single collaborative activities or are often based solely on existing statistics. The increased emphasis on performance-based funding models has increased competition within the academy. A change is underway in the academic landscape, with values such as equality, diversity and innovation under threat. Current incentive systems are even said to discourage collaboration because, among other reasons, popular science is not merit-based. More knowledge is needed about the university’s view of collaboration and this report is a contribution to that effort. The material addressed in the text is the result of an interview study with 16 research leaders from various academic areas at Jönköping University. There are two main contributions: an empirical description of the view of collaboration and a model illustrating collaboration zones.
An empirical description of views of collaboration: The description of collaboration based on the interview material creates an overview of different meanings of collaboration. The interview study with research leaders is presented in a comprehensive empirical review of employees’ perceptions, activities and experiences of collaboration. It becomes clear here that collaboration is contextually and socially determined.
A model of collaboration zones: The model illustrates three main zones where collaborative meetings can occur: a single discipline zone, a multi- discipline zone and a cross-sectoral zone.
These zones can have an intra- or interorganisational character, that is, they may involve meetings within a single organisation or among different organisations. This model provides a broadened understanding of researchers’ and teachers’ collaborations for the development of knowledge and teaching.
A conclusion of this report is that collaboration, as it is described in the community, has a much narrower focus than collaboration as it is described by researchers and teachers. The reason may be that a broader approach is required for the university to be able to meet the community’s different demands.
A discussion about the scholarship of teaching and learning, that is integrating teaching, practical knowledge, application and research as a whole, can increase understanding of why researchers and teachers have this broader view while providing guidance for the university’s internal improvement efforts.