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Expectations and Challenges in International and Interdisciplinary Projects. Examples from TRANSCAPACITY application work Britt-Marie Drottz Sjøberg NTNU , 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


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