, Expertise across disciplines: Establishing common ground in interdisciplinary disaster research teams, Risk Analysis 41, 1171–1177 (2021). DOI  PDF


Hazards and disasters arise from interactions between environmental and social processes so interdisciplinary research is crucial to understanding and effectively managing them. Despite support and encouragement from funding agencies, universities, and journals and growing interest from researchers, interdisciplinary disaster research teams face significant obstacles, such as the difficulty of establishing effective communication and understanding across disciplines. Better understanding of interdisciplinary teamwork can also have important practical benefits for operational disaster planning and response.Social studies of science distinguishes different kinds of expertise and different modes of communication. Understanding these differences can help interdisciplinary research teams communicate more clearly and work together more effectively. The primary role of a researcher is in contributory expertise (the ability to make original contributions to a discipline); but interactional expertise in other disciplines (the ability to understand their literature and communicate with their practitioners) can play an important role in interdisciplinary collaborations. Developing interactional expertise requires considerable time and effort, which can be challenging for a busy researcher, and also requires a foundation of trust and communication among team members. Three distinct aspects of communication play important roles in effective interdisciplinary communication: dialects, metaphors, and articulation.There are different ways to develop interactional expertise and effective communication, so researchers can pursue approaches that suit their circumstances. It will be important for future research on interdisciplinary disaster research to identify best practices for building trust, facilitating communication, and developing interactional expertise.

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