Computer-mediated communication in ALICE RAP: A methodology to enhance the quality of large-scale transdisciplinary research

Maurice B. Mittelmark, Michaela Bitarello Do Do Amaral-Sabadini, Peter Anderson, Antoni Gual, Fleur Braddick, Silvia Matrai, Tamyko Ysa

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

Abstract

The solving of complex social problems often calls on the public sector to stimulate, support and coordinate multidisciplinary, multi-sector action programmes, including public research programmes. When actors from disparate backgrounds and viewpoints gather to formulate and implement solutions, achieving effective communication is a special challenge. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is often helpful in this regard, but it is still under development. A CMC innovation addressed by this research project is how scientific methods can be used to analyse, interpret and feedback CMC data and results to management, to facilitate large-scale publically financed transnational and transdisciplinary research (TDR). In a qualitative study design, data were collected at the first research meeting of EU's Addictions and Lifestyles in Contemporary Europe - Reframing Addictions Project (ALICE RAP), in Barcelona, May 2011. The participants were 104 scientists with backgrounds in more than 40 disciplines/specialties from 73 research institutions in 31 countries. Three CMC discussions were conducted with the scientists working simultaneously in groups of approximately 10, used computers to post comments to TV monitors visible to all participants, on three subjects: how ALICE RAP should be managed, what its mission should be, and the scientists' diverse values and ideas regarding addiction research and policy. The CMC produced 510 posts, 212 on management, 146 on mission and 152 on values, analysed using content analysis. Participants discussed their disciplinary, language and cultural diversity, and the need to manage diversity to avoid problems. They raised the issue that ALICE RAP is not just TDR, it is also transcultural, and this adds another challenge to TDR. The discussion about values revealed a preference for reframing addictions so as to reduce stigmatization and marginalization. It is concluded that CMC is a viable way to facilitate dialogue about complex issues in the conduct of TDR on addictions, when large numbers of scientists from highly divergent backgrounds are involved. The findings from analyzing CMC data can be used by managers to fine tune functioning and collaboration in a very complex research network like ALICE RAP, as well as other types of public sector networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 3
JournalInnovation Journal
Volume17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Addictions
  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Networks
  • Public sector management
  • Transdisciplinary research

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