(Un)doing collaboration: reflections on the practices of collaborative research

Ruppert, Evelyn and Encounters Collaborative, CRESC. 2013. (Un)doing collaboration: reflections on the practices of collaborative research. CRESC, University of Manchester and The Open University. [Other]

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Abstract or Description

Collaboration is often put forward as a programmatic ideal, or invoked as an antidote to conventional research methods in the humanities and social sciences. Collaboration also increasingly features in the lexicon of ‘innovation’, ‘interdisciplinarity’, ‘partnership’, ‘engagement’ and ‘impact’ that accompanies the restructuring of Higher Education as well as the production, circulation and consumption of knowledge. But despite this turn to ‘collaboration’ and the set of tensions it generates, there has been comparatively little sustained attention to the actual practices of doing collaborative research. In this Working Paper, researchers from the CRESC Encounters Collaborative reflect on their experiences of collaborative research, offering a series of case studies that describe research with actors ranging from City Councils to a feminist community allotment, from Eurostat to intra-academic projects. Through these case studies we unpack the research process in ways that serve to disrupt conventional representations of research as a linear, sequential activity resulting in a set of knowable outputs. Rather we find that collaborative research often requires that the definition of research problems, methods or outputs be left open or remain undetermined, whilst at the same time posing questions about the authorship and ownership of knowledge production that are often otherwise foreclosed in conventional research. Furthermore, via an analysis of our research encounters, we find that the relationships that underpin collaborative research are often sustained through the production and exchange of particular kinds of ‘gifts’, which may be missed in contemporary regimes of ‘impact’. In these ways, the accounts presented in this Paper throw into relief the artefactual character of representations of research that as academics we are often incited to construct. Yet, by paying attention to the mundane and opportunistic ways in which collaborative research often proceeds (or fails to proceed), the case studies also serve to complicate a reified opposition between conventional and collaborative research. Rather, we find that the distinctiveness of collaboration lies less in a deviation from some kind of imagined, non-collaborative research process, than in the way it forces a reflexive acknowledgment of the emergent quality of knowledge in research relationships across time and space.

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CRESC Encounters Collaborative

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September 2013

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13 Sep 2013 12:29

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:53



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