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How to survive the complexity of conducting scientific research

  Photo: Unsplash.com / @kaleidico

Photo: Unsplash.com / @kaleidico

A UOC study explores co-creation in research and ways to counteract pressures from administration, funding and demands for excellence

Many research projects require citizen collaboration, either because a group of people is affected by the issues under analysis or because they may benefit from the solutions that could be arise. Another factor contributing to this increasing complexity in scientific research is the administrative obstacle race, the tortuous path towards securing funding and the pressure to achieve scientific excellence. Enric Senabre, a researcher at the UOC, has analysed co-creation as a model for facilitating group work in science.

The thesis Cocreacin para la transdisciplinariedad: adopcin de diseo participativo y gestin gil de proyectos en procesos de investigacin colaborativa (Co-creation for transdisciplinarity: adopting participative design and agile project management in collaborative research processes) explores methods for comprehensively approaching issues that involve the design of participative models in scientific projects. "This is research that can involve anyone from academics in different disciplines, who might be working in different institutions, to people or even organization that are not experts", said Senabre, author of the thesis and researcher with the Digital Commons group (DIMMONS), part of the UOC's Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3).

 

Researching research

Senabre has studied the use of a methodology like Agile in research projects. Many digital companies like Apple and Amazon already use this methodology, which consists of applying speed and flexibility to processes and working in short phases in small groups to agree on the actions to be solved. "I've explored how to design and manage different collaborative research practices", said Senabre, which has led to four scientific articles that support his thesis. Senabre's research focuses on challenges related to the design, planning and management of research projects. The main aims of his thesis included understanding key factors for fostering participative design in research projects, such as communication, display, transparency, the distribution of tasks, creating trust, commitment, the quality of the results and efficiency. According to Senabre, science is currently experiencing an "increase in diversity and complexity in its planning and management, especially in cross-disciplinary contexts, in other words, those that embrace different disciplines and groups". For this reason, his analysis covers "from the initial stages, which are disperse and not always structured during the design of research, to the development phases on the basis of its planning".

For the thesis, Senabre conducted both qualitative and quantitative analyses of projects by his own group, DIMMONS, and by the University of Barcelona and the British Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN). His research proposes a set of practical tools for designing, planning and collaboratively managing cross-disciplinary scientific research. According to the researcher, co-creation not only contributes to integrating diversity and complexity management, but  also helps with decision-making, thanks to display techniques that can aid communication dynamics and mechanisms that allow for decisiveness in discussions. Senabre highlights that co-creation improves the work's transparency and contributes to commitment and creating trust. Among other aspects, the researcher has looked at techniques such as design thinking, organizational knowledge and learning, public participation in research and the science of team science. As an example, one of the scientific projects in which the methodology and analyses proposed by Senabre are being applied is STEMForYouth, a European research project funded by the Horizon 2020 framework programme. This project, in which the University of Barcelona is taking part, aims to promote careers in science and technology among young people, organizing co-creation experiences with groups of around a hundred students from Barcelona.

Enric Senabre's proposal aims to help tackle the complexity of scientific work, going beyond academia or the laboratory, since, as he put it, it has to coexist with the sometimes difficult "balance between administrative tasks, accelerated pace and pressure from the competition for funding and excellence in research between scientific institutions". Consequently, the work contributed by Senabre with his thesis, and especially the associated work materials, is free to use by any interested person or body.

 

Article references

Senabre Hidalgo, E.: Fuster Morell, M. (2019). "Co-designed strategic planning and agile project management in academia: case study of an action research group". Palgrave Communications (vol. 5, no. 1, p. 1-13). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0364-0

Senabre Hidalgo, E. (2019). "Adapting the scrum framework for agile project management in science: case study of a distributed research initiative". Heliyon (vol. 5, no. 3, e01447). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01447

Senabre Hidalgo, E. (2018). "Management of a multidisciplinary research project: a case study on adopting agile methods". Journal of Research Practice (vol. 14, no. 1, article M2). http://jrp.icaap.org/index.php/jrp/article/view/588

Senabre Hidalgo, E.; Ferran-Ferrer, N.; Perell, J. (2018). "Participatory design of citizen science experiments". Comunicar, (no. 54). https://doi.org/10.3916/C54-2018-03

 

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Enric Senabre

Researcher with the Digital Commons group (DIMMONS), part of the UOC's Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)

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