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The role of boundary maintenance and blurring in a UK collaborative research project: How researchers and health service managers made sense of new ways of working


  • Smith, Simon
  • Ward, Vicky


The paper investigates whether, how and in what circumstances boundary blurring or boundary maintenance is productive or destructive of sense in collaborative research based on a case study involving researchers from two universities and two principal organisational stakeholders in a local healthcare system in England between 2009 and 2012. Adopting a narrative method, using meeting observation, document analysis and interviews, we describe two key sets of activities in the evolution of collaboration, which allows us to tackle the question at two levels. Studying the production of documents and their use as boundary objects in project management meetings, we show how these were used to enable cooperation by establishing a truce between worldviews, giving participants a better feel for the game and a clearer perception of its stakes. Studying how the partnership expanded to take in other organisations besides the two formal partners, we show how the project accommodated pre-existing organisational interests but thereby sacrificed its experimental ethos. In showing how actors needed to subvert their experimental script to enact collaborative partnership, we argue for understanding and evaluating the latter as the co-produced outcome of disputes and co-orientations towards a practical ideal, not as an organisational format for knowledge co-production.

Suggested Citation

  • Smith, Simon & Ward, Vicky, 2015. "The role of boundary maintenance and blurring in a UK collaborative research project: How researchers and health service managers made sense of new ways of working," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 225-233.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:130:y:2015:i:c:p:225-233
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.02.023

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. van Wijngaarden, Jeroen D.H. & de Bont, Antoinette A. & Huijsman, Robbert, 2006. "Learning to cross boundaries: The integration of a health network to deliver seamless care," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 79(2-3), pages 203-213, December.
    2. Godin, Benoit & Gingras, Yves, 2000. "The place of universities in the system of knowledge production," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 273-278, February.
    3. Gustafsson, Robin & Autio, Erkko, 2011. "A failure trichotomy in knowledge exploration and exploitation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 819-831, July.
    4. Sandra Nutley, 2010. "Debate: Are we all co-producers of research now?," Public Money & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(5), pages 263-265, September.
    5. repec:dau:papers:123456789/3432 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Stewart Clegg & David Courpasson, 2004. "Political Hybrids: Tocquevillean Views on Project Organizations," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(4), pages 525-547, June.
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    1. repec:eee:hepoli:v:122:y:2018:i:2:p:175-183 is not listed on IDEAS


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