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Collaborative Forms of Knowledge Production

Clemens introduces you to Collaborative Forms of Knowledge Production.
Team meeting
© This work by Clemens Blümel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Did this vision come true? At least, novel and different forms of collaborative knowledge production (some of which already were in place) were established or (further) developed, using or increasingly relying on digital tools and infrastructures. Roughly, two different modes could be distinguished:

First, collaborative modes of knowledge production across sectors: These are forms of collaborative research performed in interaction with users, citizens, laymen or patients. Already introduced in this course was the concept and methodology of citizen science, a concept including a set of different approaches that aim at increasing the participation of citizens in research.

Second, there are novel forms of collaborative knowledge production within the sciences that have also emerged that aim at changing how different perspectives and roles can be integrated. This particularly includes projects and initiatives that aim at collaboratively developing scientific infrastructures, resources or solutions.

Collaborative knowledge production across sectors

Having a closer look at the first, cross sectoral approaches, it becomes apparent that these differ regarding the extent to which the input of societal collaborators is standardized and the way that they allow for flexibility in the direction of research (Franzoni & Sauermann 2014). While for instance, several highly successful citizen science projects have allowed for massive collections of observations as in the case of the crowd based star observation project “Galaxy Zoo”, the input of the citizens was standardized and the research question was set. The project “Galaxy Zoo”, for instance, has led to massive participation of citizens in research which according to Franzoni & Sauermann (2014, p.1) “have led to the discovery of new classes of galaxies and a deeper understanding of the universe”.[1] But there was little negotiation between citizens and scientists about how to observe, the observation template was set.

In contrast, current Open Innovation in Science approaches, have allowed for patients and stakeholders to take part in developing the research instruments, guidelines, leading to a more explorative mode of knowledge production. In the project “Village” for example, a public health intervention focusing on the region of Tyrol in Austria, stakeholders and patients were involved in co-developing and designing practice approaches that support children with parents of mental illness (COPMI). In intense workshops, designs and guidelines for interaction were developed and interpreted, changing the process of instrument development and resulting in a rather exploratory and intense research mode (Christiansen et al., 2019). In some projects, citizen’s experiences and knowledge has even been used for crowdsourcing research questions.

In both approaches, crowd digital tools and infrastructures have helped to organize the participation and inclusion of citizen’s, user’s or patient’s inputs. For instance, digital platforms have helped in the project Galaxy Zoo to aggregate the information and integrate the massive collection of data.

Collaborative mode of scholarly knowledge production

Within the sciences, digital infrastructures have also allowed for novel, more interactive forms of knowledge production to flourish. As mentioned above, the Open Source community in particular has developed specific methods and infrastructures that have enabled more intense collaboration among scholars. Coding and software development for scientific purposes as well as scholarly data curation have benefited from such infrastructural environments.

Novel forms of collaboration are also practiced in projects focusing on enhancing the common knowledge stock. These are projects aimed at providing sustainable resources that scholarly communities can use in a longer perspective which are now implemented digitally, such as Wikis, handbooks, taxonomies and so on. In these contexts, digital tools are also used for the collective organization of work. Moreover, as these resources are aimed at supporting larger communities, contributors intensely negotiate instruments and resources (algorithms, search routines, structures etc.).

Procedures and processes for collaboration are also prevalent in the context of the conduct and reporting of scholarly review articles. The medical community in particular has developed specific infrastructures as well as guidelines for conduct and reporting. The PRISMA guidelines, for instance are often perceived as standards for systematic review articles and are the result of intense negotiation processes (Schniedermann, Blümel, Simons 2022).

[1] http://www.galaxyzoo.org/

© This work by Clemens Blümel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
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