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Collaboration for compliance

Identity tensions in the interorganizational and interdisciplinary regulation of a toxic waste storage facility

Joshua B. Barbour & Eric P. James

Abstract

Safely securing toxic waste necessitates collaboration across organizational and disciplinary boundaries. This study focused on the Waste Compliance Team (WCT), an interorganizational and interdisciplinary collaboration of a team of experts responsible for the regulatory documentation of a toxic waste storage facility. The results distill four coherent premises for self-definition evident in their collaboration: knowledge creating/scientist, knowledge checking/regulator, knowledge applying/engineer, and knowledge scheduling/project manager. Our analysis emphasized the implications of identity tensions among these competing premises for how the WCT made sense of their documentation work, safety concerns, and conflict and decision-making. Integrating multiple data sources, including interviews, observations, and a workshop with participants, we employed mosaic portraiture, a methodology developed through the study, to understand and convey the polyphony of the site. We conclude by discussing implications of the findings for theory and practice and the utility of mosaic portraiture for engaged scholarship.

Citation: Barbour, J. B., & James, E. P. (2015). Collaboration for compliance: Identity tensions in the interorganizational and interdisciplinary regulation of a toxic waste storage facility. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 43(4), 363-384. DOI: 10.1080/00909882.2015.1083601

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