ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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A Research Design for Interdisciplinary Research. The Case of Collaboration between Sociology and Geodesy

Cornelia Thierbach, Alexandra Lorenz, Nina Baur

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 11 - Law Building, Room 107
Date: 2012-07-10 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-27


In Germany, interdisciplinary research more often fails than succeeds. The paper argues that there are mainly four barriers to successful collaboration: (1) power relation, i.e. that members of one discipline regard the members of the other discipline as inferior, (2) lack of time, i.e. that collaborations start too late,(3) aims of research differ widely between disciplines, and (4) the signs of successful research (e.g. publications) differ widely between disciplines. Using the example of a collaboration between sociologists and geodesists on the quality of maps, this paper argues that a careful research design can mainly solve these problems: In this project, geodesists developed maps for several paths through a German university building from the ground floor (starting point) to the rooftop (destination). Between 2009 and 2011, the sociologists set up a social experiment during three social events that drew lots of visitors. During these experiments, which mixed survey methodology with focused ethnography, participants were asked to test and evaluate the maps. The data can be used twofold: (1) Geodesists can use the data to evaluate maps and improve map development. (2) Sociologists can use the data to learn about social practices of orientation and space construction.