NORDP 2017 Annual Research Development Conference

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Jane of All Trades: How to Take a Transdisciplinary Approach to the Facilitation of Interdisciplinary Collaborations

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(4 hours)

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As the inside outsider and outside insider, research development professionals are uniquely positioned to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, and specifically, where appropriate, to help collaborations move from being multi-disciplinary (where disciplines divide up a problem into its disciplinary pieces) to truly interdisciplinary, where the expertise of each member is allowed to fully address the core problem.  Existing approaches to this problem (specifically that of facilitation), center around either improving the soft skills of the group or offering systems/synthesis-based approaches (e.g., Bammer).  The approach offered here is based on a transdisciplinary hermeneutic-phenomenological approach that was developed, in part, with support from the NSF, and that provides a fundamentally new basis for addressing the problems of interdisciplinary collaboration. 

The dominant modern understandings of science and interdisciplinarity are all disciplinary and objectivist at their base. This shared base makes it impossible to think outside the disciplinary box when trying to approach and address interdisciplinary situations and interdisciplinary collaboration.  This workshop will provide participants with an approach to understanding these phenomena that operates outside of any and all disciplinary frames.  Such an approach allows one to work with disciplines and interdisciplinarity in a way that is simply unavailable to other modernist approaches.  The day will combine didactic sessions that lay out the nature of the approach, with interactive sessions that let the participants explore aspects of situated understanding and try out various elements of the approach so they come to appreciate their own situatedness as facilitators of the process. Participants will be introduced to the tools and skills of interactional expertise, situated understanding, and transdisciplinary facilitation.  These tools will form the basis of skills that the participants can develop over time as they work in cross-disciplinary settings and in various roles that relate to (or include) facilitating collaborations in those settings.


David A. Stone

David A. Stone, Ph.D. is Chief Research Officer, Professor of Public Health and Professor of Philosophy at Oakland University.  He is also a member of the NORDP Board of Directors, a past NORDP President, and developer of the NORD initiative.

Dr. Stone holds two interdisciplinary degrees (a combined BA/MA degree and PhD) from the University Professors Program at Boston University.  The former explored the intersection of law and psychiatry. The latter combined the philosophy of science, the philosophy of technology, economics, sociology of work, organizational behavior, cognitive science, and expert systems to examine the nature, meaning, and limits of knowledge-intensive technology. 

Over the past 25 years, he has taught and conducted research at Harvard’s Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Tufts University School of Medicine, Sheffield University (UK) and NIU.  He served as founding director of the South East European Research Center (Greece) where he developed and directed a multidisciplinary PhD program focused on addressing the needs of the Balkan nations following cessation of the Balkan Wars.  Prior to that, he served as co-founder of the Pediatric and Adolescent Research Center at Tufts University, as director of Harvard’s Boston Violence Prevention Project, where he founded BostonCares for Injured Youth and as a faculty member for the medical School’s clinical fellows program where he founded the Boston Colloquium for Qualitative Research in Health. As an interdisciplinary researcher, he has secured over $10 million in research funding and another $30 million in funds to support institutional initiatives.  He has published in seven disciplines, and taught in five. His recent scholarship examines the nature of interdisciplinarity and takes a transdisciplinary approach to public health, education, and research development.  He has given lectures, workshops and other presentations at NORDP, Society for the Social Study of Science, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Grant Resources Center, the Science of Team Science, and many other venues.

Dr. Stone’s various other administrative roles have included, Associate Vice President for Strategic Innovation and Planning, Associate Vice President for Research, and Director of Sponsored Projects at Northern Illinois University.

In 2014-15, Dr. Stone served as an American Council on Education Fellow. He also serves as President and Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Transformational Education and Responsive Action in a Technoscientific Age (ITERATA).