The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative provides a philosophical yet practical enhancement to cross-disciplinary, collaborative science. This enhancement comes primarily in the form of a dialogue-based “Toolbox workshop”, and it is intended for interdisciplinary and interprofessional teams of collaborators. Rooted in philosophical analysis, Toolbox workshops enable cross-disciplinary collaborators to engage in a structured dialogue about their research assumptions. This yields both self-awareness and mutual understanding, supplying cross-disciplinary research (CDR) collaborators with the robust foundation needed for effective collaborative research and practice.
Collaborative, cross-disciplinary research is an increasingly important part of responses to complex social problems. Complexity typifies certain problems facing human societies, such as poverty, infectious diseases, and the quest for sustainable use of natural resources. Improving the CDR required to address such problems is a significant challenge. Meeting this challenge will dramatically change how researchers think about research within and across disciplines and how they communicate in creating and applying new knowledge within collaborative research endeavors. Despite this challenge, practical approaches to enhancing collaboration have emerged slowly, lagging behind the initiation of collaborative projects and the increase in funding opportunities that encourage collaboration.
The emerging literature on how to conduct CDR focuses on the difficulties of integrating the social, biological, and physical aspects of collaborative research projects. A common theme that emerges in this literature is the need to develop effective communication as part of the CDR process.