Ernest Boyer argued some 15 years ago that
“in the coming century, there will be an urgent need for scholars who go beyond the isolated facts; who make connections across the disciplines; and who begin to discover a more coherent view of knowledge and a more integrated, more authentic view of life.” *
In the context of an unprecedented proliferation of research specialisations and more and more pressing problem-solving needs in society, Boyer, among others, emphasized the dire need for connecting knowledge and research approaches across boundaries. This “scholarship of integration” is thought to complement the traditional scholarships of discovery, teaching and application within specific fields. And indeed, major advances in integrative theory-building across the boundaries of paradigms, disciplines, cultures and contexts have been made in many places in recent years, e.g. through multiparadigm and multi-method research, cross-disciplinary meta-theory or cross-cultural or cross-sector participatory research. Various theory-driven attempts have been deployed to bridge, among other boundaries, the sciences and the humanities, face-to-face settings and virtual networks, societal needs and the dynamics inherent in research itself.
The contemporary boundary-crossing frameworks discussed on the symposium were ranging from quantum theoretical inspirations to cybernetics and complexity approaches, from action theory to cybersemiotics and integrative meta-theorising. The philosophical underpinnings covered meta-paradigms like transdisciplinarity, integral theory, critical realism, relational contextualism, and participatory and emancipatory worldviews. These frameworks shed light on each other and on specialised research, thus stimulating profound dialogue and reflection.
Regarding these advances in boundary-crossing research many new questions are emerging, among them the following: How “real” are the boundaries delimitating research fields and approaches? How consensual or controversial are boundary-crossing attempts in academic and policy discourse? Do they share specific characteristics with each other? How might they challenge some of the assumptions that unduly limit widespread research practice? Which new research avenues are boundary- crossing approaches opening up? How do they link to specialised theory and research practice? How can they catalyse innovative ways to tackle the hyper-complex local and global challenges of our era? How can they best be legitimated, communicated and institutionalised?
Issues of boundary-crossing research paradigms and communities, of sense-making tools and theory families, institutional barriers and opportunities have been as much part of the dialogues as the relation between values and facts, playfulness and usefulness, parts and wholes, levels and domains, presence and absence. Further questions that have been addressed from a methodological perspective relate to method and creativity, contexts and generalisation, subjectivity and objectivity, reductionism and emergent complexity, and of course theory and practice. This international symposium has been proposed to consider these and other topics on the boundary-crossing opportunities afforded by integrative theory-building. On three subsequent days it has brought together for the first time internationally leading proponents of boundary-crossing frameworks from philosophy, physics, social sciences and humanities, originating from different continents, countries and cultural backgrounds.
An opportunity has been co-created to uncover convergences and divergences, challenges and successes of boundary-crossing theories and meta-theories. Furthermore, the requirements and opportunities for cross-connections between frameworks and further reflexive development have been discussed. Particular emphasis has been placed on capturing insights and supporting suggestions for collaborative ventures between different streams of boundary-crossing research. Several sessions of focused exchange and deep dialogue have been facilitated between the invited lead researchers of a variety of boundarycrossing research streams along the lines of their shared interests and further collaboration stimulated.
More information on the event can be found here.
The papers of the symposium have been published here.