Edited by Patricia Kennett
Chapter 12: Crossing cultural boundaries
Cooperation in the social sciences between researchers from different cultural backgrounds is never straightforward or unproblematic. The difficulties of crossing cultural boundaries are accentuated when language barriers also have to be overcome. The European Research Area, launched in 2000, affords a particularly fertile terrain in which to analyse the comparative research process, due to the great diversity of economic, political and socio-cultural contexts contained within its borders. These differences are reflected in research traditions, which, in turn, impact on working methods. Whereas the natural sciences are dealing with concepts and language that are common, if not universal, the object of study for social scientists is socially constructed. Concepts therefore need to be located and understood within the national, regional, local and disciplinary contexts that produce them, and within which policy is formulated and implemented. This chapter focuses on the ways in which the cultural and linguistic knowledge and experience of researchers impact on their approaches to comparative studies that cross national boundaries. It examines disciplinary traditions, theoretical and methodological issues, the choice of countries for comparison, as well as the practicalities of working in international teams. Attention is also devoted to the ways in which the research process and its outcomes are monitored and evaluated, involving an appraisal of the linkages made between research and policy.
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