In June 2023, the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology was held in Melbourne. Included in this post are the text and slides of my 15 minute presentation.
Today humanity is confronted with an unparalleled number of major world crises – ecological, economic, political, cultural and religious – and the entrenchment and solidification of world-views.
The challenge for us, as sociologists, is how do we find a way forward when the academy is locked within its disciplinary silos, when the academy lacks a coherent and comprehensive methodological framework for analysis, when theory and practice are alienated from one another, when policymakers ignore research or disregard it as irrelevant. How do we devise policies, strategies and practical action when disciplines only offer partial and unrelated insights?
Disciplinary specialisation has been found wanting. It is no longer fit for purpose. We desperately need a new way of dividing up the work, a new way of specializing, a new way of dealing with complex, multi-dimensional issues, one which will more effectively promote collaboration among researchers.
This paper proposes a new way of understanding and doing science, a cyclic process aligned with progress where researchers specialise in methods not disciplines.
Drawing on the work of Bernard Lonergan (1972), Functional Collaboration is grounded in the process of going from where we are now to implementing something new in which we can distinguish eight different types of questions in two phases:
- learning from the past – empirical questions, definitional questions, historical questions, critical/evaluative questions;
- looking to the future – transformative/visionary questions, policy questions, strategic questions and practical questions.
Answering each type of question requires a different method. Researchers specialise around these eight methods forming functional specialties – Research, Interpretation, History, Dialectic, Foundations, Policies, Systematics and Communication. Within this unifying framework for collaborative creativity, researchers pass their results from one specialty to the next and contribute to the final outcome. (See: http://artfulhousing.com.au/functional-collaboration/ and http://www.philipmcshane.org/.)