Alisa Grigorovich is a health services researcher and a critical gerontologist. her research focuses on evaluating health services and policies to identify structural barriers to equity and access in the context of rehabilitation and long-term care for adults with multiple and complex health conditions. Her postdoctoral research is focused on aggression and sexuality in long-term residential dementia care.
Experiences of transdisciplinary working in a Pan-Canadian network on ageing and technology: Integrating transdisciplinary principles into research
Developing technologies that support healthy ageing requires integrating knowledge and perspectives from stakeholders of diverse disciplines and sectors, including older adults, healthcare professionals, industry, and policy makers. As a research approach, transdisciplinary working (TDW) requires and encourages relevant stakeholders to collaborate in order to co-produce new knowledge and innovative solutions that can address complex, real-world problems faced by older adults. In the field of aging and technology, TDW has attracted relatively little research, particularly exploring how TDW is experienced by researchers and non-academic stakeholders. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore how members of a pan-Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence on aging and technology experienced TDW. Thirty participants from various disciplines, sectors, and career stages participated in semi-structured interviews. Interview data were analyzed by using a thematic analysis technique. Findings revealed that many network members did not act in accordance TDW principles. First, while many participants emphasized the importance of collaborating with researchers from diverse disciplines and experiential stakeholders, in many cases, experiential stakeholders, particularly older adults, were not involved as research partners. In such projects, co-production was difficult to achieve. Second, while knowledge was exchanged across disciplines and sectors , this was for the most part passive reporting and there was little cross-disciplinary knowledge integration; this type of integration is key for the creation of innovative knowledge/solutions. However, findings also indicated that some members did incorporate TDW principles effectively into practice. For example, participants reported engaging experiential stakeholders as advisory members or research partners throughout their research process and identified this as critical to the successful outcomes and uptake of research findings. Some participants also developed a shared understanding of research goals and a shared language for communication. Third, engaging in ongoing, open communication was emphasized as essential to TDW and practised in many cases. Fourth, participants identified building relationships, trust, and respect with research team members and partners as key to TDW and stressed the importance of in-person communication for building a strong foundation for team work. Finally, several participants perceived equalizing power within a team as an important contributor to success in TDW and described ways of mitigating any power differentials. We discuss these findings by identifying some barriers to and facilitators for TDW, and suggest what support and resources are required for researchers to effectively implement TDW within the large research network to promote healthy ageing.