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Restructuring Research Universities to Advance Transdisciplinary Collaboration

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Whether the context for knowledge production and innovation is the set of major research universities, system of government agencies and federal laboratories, or the research and development efforts of industry, boundary-spanning and transdisciplinary collaborative engagement is essential in addressing the complex scientific and technological challenges that confront society. Effective transdisciplinary collaboration, however, requires an optimally configured institutional framework as well as an academic culture conducive to innovation. Despite broad consensus regarding the imperative for transdisciplinarity, however, disciplinary acculturation continues to shape successive generations of scientists, scholars, and practitioners while the traditional correlation between disciplines and departments persists as the basis for academic organization. This chapter thus examines aspects of the accommodation of transdisciplinarity within the set of American research universities relevant to the advancement of team science and offers a case study of the restructuring of academic organization undertaken to advance transdisciplinary collaboration at Arizona State University.

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... The challenges of integration across long-standing disciplinary boundaries and working with wider communities are diverse. They range from the intellectual divides created by seemingly incompatible inferential models to the pragmatic incompatibilities arising from expectations around funding, emphasis on outreach and impact, and publication (Crow and Dabars 2019;Fontana et al. 2020;Gibbs and Beavis 2020;Kerr 2020). The structural barriers created by differences in the character of datasets, metadata designed for in-discipline use, and unconnected semantic frameworks are particularly difficult to break down because both intellectual and technical work is required. ...
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