Msc& MA Dorothy Sutherland Olsen's dissertation for the degree of Ph.D.
The titel of the dissertation is:
Interdisciplinary collaboration in Science-based Technologies: Studies of knowledge creation in nanoscience and nanotechnologies.
This study has been motivated by a desire to better understand how science-based technologies develop. The focus has been on interdisciplinary research within nanoscience and nanotechnologies. The thesis studies interdisciplinary research as a learning process and examines how it might contribute to the development of the technologies studied.
Recent studies on interdisciplinary collaboration are reviewed and analysed and several theoretical perspectives are considered and discussed. Case studies have been carried out and data was gathered using interviews, observations and document studies. A socio-cultural approach was taken in interpreting and analysing the data.
The main findings are that the presence of people with different disciplinary backgrounds in a research project contributes to development in several different ways: 1) On a day-to-day basis multiple perspectives, theories and methods are evaluated and used to solve problems 2) New questions are posed from other disciplines, thus stimulating a search for new solutions 3) Research agendas are adjusted and developed to include different disciplinary perspectives 4) Tools and instruments are brought in from different disciplinary fields and used in developing the technologies in question.
By viewing research practice as a learning process it became possible to describe the different ways in which different disciplinary groups might learn from one another. Some of the learning required close contact over a long period of time, which I have called “intertwined learning”, some learning was based upon finding some kind of object (conceptual or physical) as a means of mediation, or by finding a person who could mediate I have called this “learning by taking short cuts”.
The main contribution of this thesis is to provide a more detailed understanding of how different disciplines work together to produce new knowledge and new technology. This has been achieved by arriving at a more nuanced conceptualisation of the phenomenon of interdisciplinary collaboration. The findings thus have implications for our understanding of the term “interdisciplinarity” and for the organisation of interdisciplinary research on science-based technologies.