Science, progress, collaboration and inter-disciplinary research

Thursday 17 April 2014

The east side of the Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre building captured during a sunset.

A new book by Swinburne researcher Dr Sean McNelis addresses some of the fundamental issues confronting the academic world today. 

Launched on Wednesday 16 April, Making Progress in Housing: A Framework for Collaborative Research is the result of Dr McNelis’ extensive work in the area of housing research. 

“Housing research is an example of some of the difficult issues that researchers face today: it is multi-disciplinary, using a diverse range of methods and approaches,” Dr McNelis said. 

“Without a clear understanding of how diverse disciplines, approaches and methods relate to one another and without a clear understanding of them as a whole, current collaboration efforts are just wishful thinking; we will not be able to address the pressing social, economic and environmental problems we currently face.” 

Rather than focusing on the diverse products of housing research, the book focuses on the different types of questions we ask as the grounds for science, progress, collaboration and inter-disciplinary research. It asks researchers to reflect on these questions and distinguish eight questions in the process of going from the current situation to implementing something new. The book proposes that we can only bring about progress by asking and finding new answers to these eight questions.

“While I used the housing research sector to illustrate a new framework for collaborative research, I believe this book has a much broader appeal than just housing. 

“It is a framework that is emerging in many different areas of human endeavour – the formal and natural sciences, the social sciences, literature, the ecology movement and women’s studies.” 

Drawing on the work of 20th Century philosopher, theologian and economist, Bernard Lonergan, Dr McNelis has attempted to bring a new perspective on one of his key insights, functional collaboration as the way in which history and we as the makers of history bring about progress.” 

“Lonergan was a highly-respected philosopher and theologian who sought to address some of the fundamental questions in contemporary society, yet the work of this important critical thinker has largely been neglected. His ‘framework for collaborative creativity’, as a new way of understanding and doing science, has much to offer the aspirations for collaboration and inter-disciplinary research.” 

Making Progress in Housing: A framework for collaborative research is published by Routledge and can be purchased online here.

Dr McNelis has over 30 years’ experience in housing management, housing policy and housing research and has been at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research since 2002.