Encounter at Dynamic Eye Level: 15 Roles Adopted by Actors in Science-Practice Collaborations

Aktivität: Vorträge und GastvorlesungenKonferenzvorträgeForschung

Annaliesa Hilger - Ko-Autor*in

Michael Rose - Präsentator*in

Michael Rose - Ko-Autor*in

Sustainability transitions often require a deep partnership between science and practice. The idea of
such a collaborations is reflected in a growing amount of transdisciplinary and transformative
research processes and corresponding publications. Those processes require from all actors to do
more than simply participate in a workshop or carry out basic or applied research. Consequently, the
debate about the role of science (and research approaches) in society encompass questions on the
roles adopted by different actors within these processes.
Several works elaborate on the roles of researchers within transdisciplinary and transformative
processes; the specific roles for non-scientific partners tend to be neglected, though. This is critical,
as defined roles within these processes could provide the actors in the field with a “vocabulary”,
which facilitates orientation, transparency, and a reflective design of the collaboration.
Our contribution goes beyond the recent approaches of merely considering the perspective of non-
scientific actors or simply explaining the roles of researchers. Instead, we propose a change of
perspective towards considering all the roles potentially required for a fruitful collaborative process
in an integrative manner.
We conduct a systematic literature review to identify papers with precise descriptions of relevant
processes, which contain sufficient information on actors’ activities observed in real-world science-
practice interactions in the realm of sustainability. Following an understanding of roles “as a set of
recognizable activities and attitudes” (Wittmayer, 2016, p. 105), we code all activities observed in the
11 resulting studies (by applying 72 activity codes a total of 549 times). Subsequently, we employ a
hierarchical cluster analysis to help us identify co-occurring activities that can be aggregated into
coherent roles. Sub-clusters of activities are identified by means of a hierarchical cluster analysis,
which we then condensed into 15 roles.
The roles can be categorised in four realms: field, academia, knowledge co-production, and boundary
management. The roles of the Data Supplier, the Field Expert, and the Application Expert are adopted
by actors who are close to the field, whereas the roles of the Scientific Analyst and the Knowledge
Collector are primarily adopted by researchers. Furthermore, roles within the knowledge co-
production process are the Knowledge Co-Producer, the Troublemaker, and the Practice Expert. An
interesting result is the large number of roles within the realm of boundary management (e. g., the
Choreographer, the Communicator, the Facilitator, and the Intermediary), which are primarily, but
not by definition, adopted by researchers. The high number and diversity of roles, especially in the
realm of boundary management, reveals the importance of a comprehensive approach to
coordination, communication, and process design.
In sum, our work not only offers insights into the roles primarily adopted by non-scientific actors, but
also provides a more nuanced and complete picture of the roles played by all actors involved. These
15 roles identified in our work could be useful to consider and assign in td/tr interactions. The paper
thus contributes to clarity in research practice and thereby addresses the conference track on
methodological considerations.


12th International Sustainability Transitions Conference - IST 2021


Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Deutschland

Veranstaltung: Konferenz