Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Improving Interdisciplinary Research on Policing and Security

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Criminology

Improving Interdisciplinary Research on Policing and Security

Article excerpt


I want to draw together two recent publications to reflect on their implications for research on policing and security. The publications are a report written for the Australian Council of Learned Academies entitled Strengthening Interdisciplinary Research: What it is, what it does, how it does it and how it is supported^Bammer, 2012) and a book Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: Integration and Implementation Sciences for Researching Complex Real- World Problems published in January 2013 (Bammer, 2013).

The Strengthening Interdisciplinary Research report discusses two major problems with interdisciplinary research. These are important generally, as well as in policing and security research more specifically. The first problem is that interdisciplinary research is treated as a single entity, even though it comes in many different forms. Let us look at three examples. One is a single researcher using ideas and methods from two or more disciplines to address a specific policing problem, such as bringing together insights from sociology, anthropology and psychology to study victimisation. Second is a researcher and end-user partnering to invent a new commercial product, like a new security screening device, or to design a new form of practice, such as how to handle perpetrators of domestic violence. Third is a major team project bringing together experts from multiple disciplines, policing practitioners and other stakeholders (such as victim representatives, relevant nongovernment organisations and policy makers) to investigate a major issue like organised crime.

The second problem with interdisciplinarity is that the research methodology is poorly documented. In contrast to the disciplines, there are no standard procedures for reporting interdisciplinary research. Published accounts are invariably incomplete, making it impossible to fully understand and assess what occurred or to draw lessons for improving future investigations. This is partly a result of the failure to differentiate various kinds of interdisciplinary research.

How Do we Move Forward?

In the book Disciplining Interdisciplinarity I argue that a possible way to resolve this challenge is to differentiate various kinds of interdisciplinary research and to develop agreed ways to report each of them. I concentrate on the third kind of interdisciplinary research described above-namely team research on a complex real-world problem that brings together discipline experts and stakeholders-and argue that an underpinning discipline could provide a systematic way to both conduct and report such investigations.

I propose that the discipline is called Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S) and that it has three domains, each of which is structured around five questions. Let us deal with the domains first.

Domain 1 is the one most commonly associated with interdisciplinarity, namely bringing together knowledge from different disciplines and stakeholders.

While few would argue with the necessity of bringing together what is known about a problem, the need to understand and manage what we don't know is less well recognised. This second domain of 12 S is the most challenging, because thinking about unknowns is not well developed. But unintended consequences and unpleasant surprises result from unknowns that have been ignored rather than dealt with.

The third 12 S domain is to support policy and practice change with a combination of the best available knowledge plus the most advanced ways of understanding and managing the remaining unknowns.

In summary, therefore, 12S comprises three domains:

1. Synthesising disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge

2. Understanding and managing diverse unknowns

3. Providing integrated research support (i.e., combining synthesized knowledge with a solid appreciation of remaining unknowns) for policy and practice change

As outlined earlier, there is currently no agreed, systematic way to capture the wealth of experience gained in interdisciplinary research so that it can be transmitted and built on. …

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