, Volume 38, Issue 1-2, pp 51-62
Date: 29 Jun 2006

Cultural Competence in Interdisciplinary Collaborations: A Method for Respecting Diversity in Research Partnerships

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There is growing recognition of the need by funding agencies, universities, and research units for interdisciplinary research to tackle complex societal problems that cannot be adequately addressed by single disciplines alone. Interdisciplinary collaboration capitalizes on a diversity of perspectives and practices that each discipline offers in hopes of providing innovative solutions to multifaceted problems. However, for interdisciplinary work to be effective, members of the collaboration must recognize that cultural differences exist between and within disciplines. This paper conceptualizes disciplines as cultural groups and advocates for culturally competent practices to facilitate interdisciplinary research and practice. Specifically, each participant in interdisciplinary collaborations must value diversity, develop the capacity for self-assessment, work towards understanding one's own disciplinary culture, and be sensitive to the dynamics inherent when cultures interact. Additionally, members of any interdisciplinary endeavor must be cognizant of power dynamics at play and avoid such things as tokenism, informal hierarchies, and disciplinary policing. Through awareness of one's own disciplinary culture and sensitivity to others, interdisciplinary research and practice may provide creative solutions to important problems.