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Expectations and Challenges in International and Interdisciplinary Projects. Examples from TRANSCAPACITY application work Britt-Marie Drottz Sjøberg NTNU , [email protected] Presentation at the ”European Secure and Safe Smart Cities 2020” workshop in Helsinki, Finland. June 16, 2014.

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Expectations and Challenges

in International and Interdisciplinary Projects. Examples from TRANSCAPACITY application work

Britt-Marie DrottzSjøberg

NTNU, [email protected]

Presentation at the ”European Secure and Safe Smart Cities 2020”

workshop in Helsinki, Finland. June 16, 2014

Name, title of the presentation

My background examples of projec ts
My background: Examples of Projects

  • Nature - environment

    • Perceptions & feelings to nature and environment (NV)

    • Reactions to pollution, contaminated land (NV)

  • Technological systems and processes

    • Blind people reading digital newspapers

    • Accidents, workplace HES (NFR)

    • Nuclear safety; municipalities (NKS; SSI)

    • Nuclear waste management (EC:ARGONA;

      EC:CARGO; SKB: Social Science Programme)

  • Psychological and social phenomena

    • Reactions to radioactive fallout (EC:JSP2)

    • Crime, violence (AMFO)

    • Time perception (SSI)

    • Pandemic H1N1 (EC)

Personal experiences of interdisciplinary international research work
Personal experiencesof interdisciplinary & international research work

  • Nobody speaks the same language

    • Due to mistakenly taking for granted that others have the same background, experience, and information

  • Focus on different research themes

    • From interesting to irritating

      to incomprehensible

  • Misunderstandings are common, but not always detected

    • Understanding that one does not understand is much preferable to not realizing that one hasn’t got a clue about what was said

  • In spite of everyone’s very good intentions, these sometimes pave the road to disaster

    • Unintentionally our expectations are based on success criteria from the own point of view

  • Attention to social and cultural factors is necessary for successful projects

    • Requires interest in others work and opinion

    • High degree of patience because it slows down work

    • There is sometimes a need to explicitely discuss expectations, goals and standards

Goals;TRANSCAPACITYapplication Transboundary Resilience and Capacity-Building: Nordic Societal Security

Researchers End-users

Larger Society

Specific research tasks


Nordic Centre of Excellence

Societal Security

Documentation of challenges

Exchange of experience

Trans-national issues;

Authorities, companies, citizens, international organisations

Transcapacity expectations in the call
Transcapacity; Expectations in the call

Thematic framework. This call aims to:

- Address common Nordic societal security issues.

- Mobilise and qualify researchers for participation in EU Security research in Horizon 2020.

  • Due to increasing complexity and globalisation, new challenges are emerging regarding societal security issues. Research on societal security has developed differently in the Nordic countries.

  • Societal security comprises the ability of a society to sustain vital societal functions and secure populations' life, health, needs and basic values under extraordinary stresses, known as crises.

  • The proposal for a Nordic Centre of Excellence should address one or, preferably, more issues related to the following aspects of societal security:

    - Prevention

    - Capacity-building for response and recovery

    - Communication

    - Learning

Transcapacity expectations in the call1
Transcapacity; Expectations in the call

  • The applications should:

  • employ a multidisciplinary approach and focus on cross-sectoral and transboundary issues and consequences for the Nordic countries, of generic significance for societal security.

  • Topics can be examined in various empirical domains, to which expert knowledge and contextual aspects may be added.

  • Traditional but still important domains include the societal effects of the vulnerabilities in interdependent critical infrastructures and critical societal functions.

  • Examinations of new stressors to these systems and functions may be appropriate for a resilience management approach.

Transcapacity expectations in the call2
Transcapacity; Expectations in the call

The Nordic Centre of Excellence should have

  • the potential to address the challenges of managing the unexpected and the unknown.

  • The difficult but increasingly widely embraced concept of 'resilience' may capture the essence of what is required to meet the grand challenges relating to societal security in the future.

  • Research is needed on the various components of the concept of resilience in a human, socio-technical, societal, organisational, political and transnational context.

Transcapacity 3 legs

6 WPs

International research teams & organisations connections

Partners in municipalities and business

National authorities

AIM: Prevention and Management of Major Hazardous Events in Society

(caused by technology, humans or weather)



Civic society

Existing and new:



Open courses and training

Dissemination: Open Conferences & Seminars

Attachment to International risk, safety and crisis organisations


In Sweden; Connect to

”Åre Risk Event”


In Denmark


In Jyväskylä


in Iceland

Nordic Societal Security Conference Trondheim

Deliverables: WP articles; Chapters in Edited Volume

Final reports


Work teams

EUROFORM meeting

Connect to Norway ”Sikkerhetsdagene”

EUROFORM meeting

Connect to Helsinki, Living lab

EUROFORM meeting

Connect to Sweden: Radiological seminar

EUROFORM meeting

Connect to Iceland

Risk Analysis

EUROFORM meeting

Connect to Denmark


Reports Euroforum & Annual Reports

Transcapacity challenges
Transcapacity: Challenges

Groups of experts


Bridging gaps between

Different types of experts

Communication & dissemination standards

Country & organisational norms/cultures

Making sense of & handling disparate inputs and outputs in practice

Within the cooperation

Relative NordForsk/ NCoE

Developing a shared overview

Where various contributions fit the common goals

  • Research groups

  • End-user groups

  • Commercial interests/ Businesses

  • NGOs & Supporting organisations

Transcapacity challenges1
Transcapacity: Challenges

Various Realities


Very different:

Types of work and goals


Timeframes for work production

Expectations of results

Use of results

Personal styles


Similar interest in exchange of information and experience to increase societal safety

  • End-users

  • Researchers

  • Businesses

  • NGOs, International organisations

Central challenges in research
Central challenges in research




Private business and


Other governmental

affiliated research


Societal challenges
Societal challenges

Trust and Seeds of Dystopia

Disparities & Social dilemmas

Expectancies vs. Realities

Hidden, Implicit & Active threats

Complexity & Scale of (potential) problems

  • Complexity and Uncertainty

  • Connectivity

  • Nations and Governance systems

  • Benefit to whom and risk to whom

  • Matter and Mind

  • The hard world

    • Existing and emerging technologies

  • The soft world

    • Citizens, consumers, individuals

  • The surrounding world

    • Natural environment; group identities

  • A globalworld?

    • Fact, risk or possibility?

    • Future relevance?

    • Comprehension?

Technology has developed faster than theory dekker 2011
Technology has developed faster than theory” (Dekker, 2011)

  • Complexity lies ahead of our understanding of it

  • We can build and manage technology – in an isolated system

  • But,

    • Competition

    • Internal relationships multiple possible outcomes

    • Internal dependencies

  • We lack explicit or well-developed theories for how such complexity develops – and can be managed

Different prerequisites for safety
Different Prerequisites for Safety?

In Technology

In Social Contexts

Managed by removal of obstacles and hindrances through



Lock-out systems

  • Managed by obstacles and hindrances through

    • Buffers

    • Conservative estimates

    • Back-up systems

Common Factors for Management

Knowledge, Skill, Resources, Planning, Willingness and Ability to act

Experiences from transcapacity
Σ Experiences from Transcapacity

  • Escalation of interest approaching deadline

  • Every ”group” wants to pursue their own field and interest – a challenge to relate the own contribution to a larger (and still not well-defined) picture

  • Free-riders and non-attendants

  • Personal styles vary: can be interesting, supportive, relaxed, overwhelming, timid, irritating, funny, etc.

Experiences from transcapacity1
Σ Experiences from Transcapacity



Many facets of:

Unfamiliarity ->

Uncertainty ->


  • Seeing the necessity of cooperation for increased societal resilience


  • Organisation

    • Clarify common goals and specific contributions

    • Clarify budget use and supplement the financing

    • Organise for personal exchanges across groups

  • Communication

    • Underline personal communication

    • Communicate a lot

    • Always be prepared to explain what you see as obvious

  • Contents

    • Leave experts to do their work and focus on finding, and steering, the contributions into the common goal arena


  • Interdisciplinary projects across national borders ought to be approached as exotic foreign countries

    • With care and careful planning

    • As interesting but potentially bewildering

    • Exposing you to a new ”language” and

    • Unexpected surprises

    • They probe into new frameworks laying the basis for new knowledge and practice – providing patience

    • Extremely rewarding if keeping up with the challenges