Engineering and Sociology of Science: Understanding Various Social Processes that Emerge During Collaborative Practices
Some engineers are beginning to recognize that local end-users knowledge and experience are vital for long-term sustainability and development of technologies. As a result of such insights, they are looking for ways to involve these end-users in all phases; from project development to implementation and upkeep. There is an opportunity for both sociologists and engineers to understand the various social processes that emerge through collaborative practices involving participants with varying degrees of expertise and interest in the development of sustainable technologies for local use. Within the water and sanitation sector, some engineers are constructing a series of “connected stakeholder platforms” to involve all institutional and individual levels in the process of solution identification and implementation. Rather than view end-users as passive receptacles, emphasis is placed on their active involvement in the shared learning experience of innovation. Fully aware of the many failures contained in conventional models of knowledge development and innovation, these engineers seek an integrative, open-ended approach. One that is concerned with developing capacity among all stakeholder through dissemination and sharing of ideas and technologies before and during development rather than only after the research project have concluded. Similar patterns of practice were noted by some social scientists while studying various collaborative ventures in science and technology. They noted that some of the more successful projects allowed various stakeholders to house competing interests while simultaneously agreeing upon other pertinent issues. This dynamic process established what is called ‘trading zones’. The ‘trading zone’ as an analytical framework may provide engineers with a heuristic tool in which they can better understand the promises and challenges of collaborative projects. In turn, sociologists can learn from the various modifications and adaptations engineers experience during their on going struggle for capacity building/knowledge transfer from the grass root levels.
Keywords: Multi-stakeholder Learning Platforms, Sustainable Water Management, Trading Zones, Learning Alliances, Collaborative Learning
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, McMaster University
Dr. Khosrow Farahbakhsh
Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph
Dr. Farahbakhsh has extensive experience in the design of water and wastewater treatment facilities, facility audit and review. As an environmental engineering consultant, Khosrow designed several innovative and ecologically sensitive wastewater treatment plants, including the first fully enclosed sequencing batch reactor in eastern Canada, the first greenhouse tertiary system in Dartmouth, and many other small and large wastewater treatment facilities. Khosrow has also designed air pollution control systems, soil and groundwater remediation systems and has conducted energy, water conservation and environmental audits of many facilities.
Currently, Dr. Farahbakhsh conducts research in the area of integrated water resources management which includes water reuse, rainwater harvesting, sustainable wastewater treatment technologies and energy production from wastewater. He is also involved in the exploration of ways to engage stakeholders and end users in the process of solution development and implementation for sustainable water management. His funding sources include the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Ontario Centers of Excellence, Canadian Foundation of Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust, various municipalities in Ontario and British Columbia, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Zenon Environmental (Part of GE Water Group), Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Water Network. Dr. Farahbakhsh has authored or co-authored over 30 publications in the environmental engineering field.
More information on Dr. Farahbakhsh can be obtained from the following website:
Dr. Dorothy Anna Carla Pawluch
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, McMaster University