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Using collaborative conceptual modelling as a tool for transdiscipinarity

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This article provides an appraisal of collaborative conceptual modelling (CCM) as a tool for research translation. First developed by Newell and Proust (2012), CCM draws on the tools and frameworks of systems thinking as a way of addressing transdisciplinary problems. We applied CCM in two separate workshops – one discussing ‘Digital Cities’, and the other on ‘Energy Futures’. The aim was to assess the value and limitations of CCM in an applied setting, as well as its value in producing transdisciplinary research outcomes. We found that CCM is a valuable tool for researchers interested in addressing complex or ‘wicked’ problems. At the same time, it has its own challenges. These barriers include recruiting workshop participants who are not researchers; assisting workshop participants in developing a truly collaborative approach; and training participants in how to draw some of the main CCM tools (particularly causal loop diagrams). Future research will explore how to address these challenges, and apply CCM in a contested space.
key messages
Collaborative conceptual modelling (CCM) applies systems thinking to address transdisciplinary problems.
Effective CCM requires strong facilitation to encourage collaboration between workshop participants.
Challenges of CCM include recruitment, drawing causal loop diagrams, and reporting on outcomes.
More research into and testing of CCM is necessary to address these challenges.
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Keywords: collaborative conceptual modelling; participatory modelling; research translation; transdisciplinary

Affiliations: 1: University of Melbourne, Australia 2: Australian National University, Australia and Tsinghua University, China

Appeared or available online: January 24, 2019

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