402 Cohen Hall
George Mason University
Title: The Knowledge Supply Chain
Abstract: Complex social phenomena stem from multiple forces spanning levels of analysis and disciplinary categories. Thus, no single study, methodological approach, or even discipline will be sufficient to explain, predict or control such phenomena. It is why interdisciplinary endeavors are becoming more and more in demand. Yet knowledge synthesis in such endeavors is a much bigger challenge than anticipated. Experts have disciplinary perspectives that often do not align or can even clash with others. While the hope is that such a variety of perspectives will promote learning and innovation, more often they cause confusion and conflict that transforms into unresolvable arguments as people defend their intellectual turf. The problem is that there are no shared superordinate frameworks with which to coordinate the integration of interdisciplinary knowledge. I therefore suggest training all researchers to think about knowledge creation as a supply chain. In the supply chain, quality knowledge is the product of specialized communities of practice that act in a coordinated system to combine and contextualize their knowledge. By making explicit and shared the functions by which knowledge is transformed from generalized parts to contextual wholes, the supply chain highlights the broader knowledge integration functions that must be supported by the gatekeeping institutions (e.g., The National Science Foundation). By understanding what the components and end products of the knowledge supply chain could be, individual researchers can be more effectively specialized and coordinated across disciplines, and probably within as well. The result will be increased production of the interdisciplinary knowledge the modern world so desperately needs.
Bio: Cronin's research seeks to understand how collaboration can help produce creative ideas, and what it takes to then bring these ideas to fruition. Innovation begins with a creative idea or notion, and so one stream of Cronin's research focuses on the generation of creative ideas, especially how people come to discover useful interactions. Once produced, creative ideas require instantiation in the task environment. Thus the second stream of Cronin's research explores the process by which innovative ideas are accepted and implemented by others.