An Exploration of Experiences of Transdisciplinary Research in Aging and Technology

  • Mineko Wada Simon Fraser University http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4906-0982
  • Alisa Grigorovich Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
  • Mei Lan Fang University of Dundee
  • Judith Sixsmith University of Dundee
  • Pia Kontos University of Toronto
Keywords: transdisciplinarity, team science, semi-structured interviews, thematic analysis, aging and technology, communication, barriers, promising practices

Abstract

Transdisciplinary research (TDR) involves academics/scientists collaborating with stakeholders from diverse disciplinary and sectoral backgrounds. While TDR has been recognized as beneficial in generating innovative solutions to complex social problems, knowledge is limited about researchers' perceptions and experiences of TDR in the aging and technology field. We conducted a qualitative study to address this knowledge gap by exploring how members of a pan-Canadian research network on aging and technology perceived and experienced TDR. Thirty members participated in semi-structured interviews. Interview data were analyzed thematically. Participants identified benefits that can be gained from implementing TDR, including mutual learning, improved capacity to understand and solve problems, and community engagement and empowerment. Participants also identified challenges to implementing TDR: communication issues and conflicting priorities among team members; tensions between traditional and TDR approaches; and difficulties identifying partners and developing partnerships. In addition, contradictions between TDR principles and participants' understanding of them became apparent. Nevertheless, some participants described successful strategies for implementing transdisciplinary principles in their projects: stakeholder engagement; language and goal sharing; and open, respectful communication. We offer recommendations to support TDR in aging and technology that focus on education and reform of the culture and values that can constrain efforts to practice TDR.

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Author Biographies

Mineko Wada, Simon Fraser University

Mineko WADA is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Science and Technology for Aging Research (STAR) Institute at Simon Fraser University. With a background in occupational science and occupational therapy, she is interested in exploring participation and socially constructed meanings of activities. Over the past ten years, she has accumulated extensive experience in using qualitative research methodologies and methods. In her current role with AGE-WELL NCE, she is focusing on developing guidelines for co-creating lay summaries of research with stakeholders to support transdisciplinary research in the network and beyond.

Alisa Grigorovich, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

Alisa GRIGOROVICH is a CIHR Health System Impact postdoctoral fellow at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network. She is a critical health services and policy researcher whose research focuses on the intersection of health, aging, and care. Her postdoctoral research explores the social, ethical, and policy implications of implementing monitoring technologies in institutional and community care settings to improve health and safety and the quality of care.

Mei Lan Fang, University of Dundee

Mei Lan FANG holds an academic role of research fellow in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Dundee. For the past ten years, Mei worked as a transdisciplinary research scientist and a health sciences methodologist in the area of gerontology, tackling issues of marginalization including: migration challenges, digital divide, housing inequality and quality of care at the end of life. With a diverse background in public health in both pure and applied research, she has a range of expertise in both traditional and creative qualitative and participatory methods.

Judith Sixsmith, University of Dundee

Judith SIXSMITH is a professor in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Dundee. Her research interests reside in the areas of public health and social care where she explores the ways in which people living in disadvantaged communities experience processes of marginalization within our social systems. Often working within collaborative, gendered, participatory and transdisciplinary approaches, Judith has directed several research projects on issues of healthy aging, dementia, place-making and palliative and end of life care.

Pia Kontos, University of Toronto

Pia KONTOS is a senior scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network and associate professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She is a critical scholar committed to the transformation of long-term dementia care so it is more humanistic and socially just. She draws on the arts to enrich the lives of people living with dementia. She also creates research-based dramas to challenge structural violence in dementia care settings and to foster relational caring. She has presented and published across multiple disciplines on embodiment, relationality, ethics, and dementia.

Published
2020-01-28