A Sharing Meanings Approach for Interdisciplinary Hazards Research

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Oct 29, 2018
R. Dean Hardy



Hazards researchers frequently examine complex socioenvironmental problems, a difficultundertaking that is further compounded by the challenge of navigating the many disciplinaryapproaches in the field. This article draws on key insights from studies of the interdisciplinaryprocess and proposes the “sharing meanings approach” for improving interdisciplinary col-laboration in hazards research. The sharing meanings approach addresses common challengesto interdisciplinary teamwork and organizes them into four focal areas: (1) worldviews (in-cluding ontological, epistemological, and philosophical perspectives), (2) language, (3) re-search design, and (4) project goals. The approach emphasizes the process of sharing ratherthan seeking to develop a single set of shared meanings related to the four focal areas. Thearticle identifies common challenges and recommends strategies and actions within each fo-cal area for guiding teams toward sharing their implicit meanings. A hypothetical example isintroduced to demonstrate how the approach offers a path for revealing and overcoming thecommon roadblocks experienced in interdisciplinary hazards research. By making interdisci-plinary hazards teams’ implicit assumptions explicit, the sharing meanings approach offers anoperational process to seize on moments of difference as productive tension and to see suchchallenges as opportunities—rather than obstacles—for innovating toward hybrid method-ological research designs in hazards research.

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