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2017 Conference - Interpretive burdens in sustaining the ‘holy grail’ of interprofessional research
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The debate continues over choosing the appropriate prefix (inter-, cross-, trans-, multi-) for characterising research that necessitates going beyond one’s disciplinary and professional circumference. For many of us, collaborating and partnershipping across disciplinary and professional boundaries is assumed not only to be desirable and value-added, especially in terms of institutional imperatives and funding prerequisites, but also as being epitomised in smooth working relations without visible challenges. Indeed one’s experience of collaboration is often productive; however, at times one is confronted with the burden of contested ‘interpretive repertoires’ originating in differential expertise and expert systems. This paper is primarily a practising discourse analyst’s reflections on the ‘interpretive repertoires’ surrounding collaborative interprofessional research, with particular reference to the domain of healthcare.

As an illustrative exemplar, my own collaboration with professional practitioners in the field of genetics and genetic counselling over the past two decades has yielded many fruits but not without interpretive (and ethical) challenges that underpin the long-term relationship. In interprofessional discourse settings, I suggest that the interpretive burden cuts both ways: it poses difficulties for the language/communication expert to make sense of professional practice and for the professional expert to make sense of the language/communication researchers’ argot and interpretive procedures. Such a hiatus no doubt minimises uptake and impact of language/communication-oriented research findings, although descriptive adequacy can be accomplished in discourse/genre analysis of selective data sites in specialised domains. My conclusion points to how the interpretive burden can be minimised/muted by fostering ‘consultative research’ (to include joint problematisation, thick participation, collaborative interpretation and hot feedback) and by building ‘communities of interest’ which acknowledge differences in ontologies and epistemologies across given communities of practice/discourse/interpretation. ‘Communities of interest’ concern scenarios in which one crosses different communities of discourse/interpretive practice as in healthcare delivery – where one may share ‘interests’ but not ‘practices’, ‘discourses’ and ‘interpretations’.

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