Chapter 4 Research Methodology
4.5 Data gathering methods
In total, 78 interviews were conducted with researchers across universities, research institutes, CEOs, managers and owners of large, micro and SMEs in Sweden. Interviews were also conducted with government officials in ministries and funding agencies in Sweden. Three interviews were conducted in Portuguese, and subsequently translated into English; most interviews were conducted in English. These were in-depth interviews which lasted between 30
minutes and two hours. Table 5 shows the number of interviews conducted and how many in which sector.
Table 5 Number of interviews by sector
Table 6 Sino-Swedish Eco-Innovation Cooperation5
5 Note that more interviews were added after tables 5 and 6 were first constructed.
universities Swedish Research
Institutes Large, micro and SMEs
Number of Interviews 17 34 12 15
Government branches/research institutions/firms
Vinnova, Formas, Energy Agency, STINT
Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation, Ministry of Education and Research
Luleå University of Technology, Lund University Institute of Technology (LTH), Borås University, Chalmers University, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Mälardalens College, Uppsala University, University of Gothenburg
Innventia AB, SP, Acreo, Swedish Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Engineering, Swerea KIMAB AB, Swedish Environmental Institute
Reformtech, Teroc AB, Lindholmen Science Park, Biorecro AB, Stena Metal, Trevo, Terrigio AB, Wallenius Water AB, Volvo, AB Två Punkt Ett
Actors How many interviewed? Comments
Researchers across Swedish
research institutes 3 Researchers of mixed background and
nationalities. A few researchers with business background and marketing perspectives.
Source: do Nascimento, 2014
Table 7 Sweden Brazil Eco-Innovation Cooperation
Researchers across Swedish
universities 8 researchers in 6 Swedish universities; one staff at international office at KTH = 9 individuals
Researchers of mixed backgrounds and nationalities. Some individuals had previous experience in industry. Regarding
universities, two more traditional universities and one newer university.
Small companies in
Sweden 2 total One startup company created in 2008 and a
small company created in 1999.
Medium size companies in
Sweden 2 total One of the companies has about 45
employees and has a daughter company in China with most Chinese employees and one French employee.
Large Companies 0
Actors How many interviewed? Comments
Researchers across Swedish
research institutes 7 individuals One of the research institutes participating in the program is 55% owned by industrial companies and 45% owned by the Swedish Government. Another research institute has 210 employees working within the group and works with innovation based on raw materials.
Researchers across Swedish
universities 4 universities involved: 2 larger universities, and two smaller; 4 scholars interviewed.
Two of the university professors interviewed are from Brazil and have been living in Sweden for several years. Both have extensive experience working with Brazil and strong connections with Brazilian
companies, universities and research institutes (especially with universities). The professor at one of the universities has connections with Brazil; another scholar at a Swedish university also had prior
connections with Brazil.
Small Companies 5 small companies interviewed;
mostly small companies. One small company focuses on biomass and carbon storage, created in 2007; another
Source: do Nascimento, 2014
18.104.22.168 The Chalmers Transport Area of Advance program
A total of 21 people from two centers of the Chalmers Transport Area of Advance – the Competence Center for Catalysis and the Lighthouse Maritime Competence Center - were interviewed between 2012 and 2013. These are two of the eight centers within the Transport Area of Advance at Chalmers University.
The interviewees were mostly with professors and some were PhD candidates and post docs from both competence centers. The participants comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds and were from different departments at Chalmers University and Gothenburg University. These departments included:
Business Economics and Law at Gothenburg University, Department of Shipping and Marine Technology at Chalmers University of Technology, Chemical Engineering. Topics such as research governance, concerns over the current Swedish funding model and internationalization emerged from the interviews with researchers working with the Transport Area of Advance.
The majority of the researchers in both centers were professors. Two of the interviewees hold higher level positions at Chalmers University: Anna Dubois, former director of the Transport Area of Advance and currently vice-president of Chalmer’s Areas of Advance and Magnus Blinge, co-director of the Chalmer’s Transport Area of Advance. A few post doc researchers from both centers were
small company, located in the Gothia Science Park, specializes in irrigation systems. One micro company with about 4 employees was also interviewed and it is a technical consulting company. The owner of another small company speaks Portuguese fluently and has been working with Brazil for several years.
Medium companies 0
Large companies 1 This particular company has operations in
13 countries and the main office is in Gothenburg.
Kommunalt Bolag 1 Borås Energi och Miljö
also interviewed. The interview subjects had diverse backgrounds and worked in different departments at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg. The semi-structured interviews were comprised of a series of pre-established questions divided into four areas: 1) researcher’s history and background, 2) the institutions researchers collaborate with, 3) researcher’s role in his or her research project(s) and 4) conditions for creating benefits from research. Each area included specific questions relating to a particular topic.
Interviews with the director and co-director of the Chalmers Transport Area of Advance and with the director of the Competence Center for Catalysis were conducted in May of 2015. See Appendix B for the complete questionnaire.
The interview questions used in 2015, with the director and co-director of the Chalmers Transport Area of Advance were open-ended in general and the interview type was unstructured. This means that there was no structured interview guide. Instead, the interviewer provided the opportunity for the interview subjects to open-up and discuss the topic in question and express themselves in their own way. In other words, there was no pre-established questionnaire. For instance, the director and co-director described their recent research projects and their roles within the Transport Area of Advance Program at Chalmers, the rationale for the implementation of the program as well as future goals. A list of interviewees comprised of researchers working with the strategic research area (SRA) of transportation at Chalmers University and the University of Gothenburg was obtained through one of my PhD advisors.
22.214.171.124 The Eco-Innovation Cooperation programs
Interviews with government actors, researchers and companies involved in the Sino-Swedish and the Brazil Sweden Eco-innovation programs were conducted between 2014 and 2016. Access to interview subjects and grant recipients of the Eco-Innovation Cooperation programs was made possible through an employee of VINNOVA and adjunct professor at Lund University, also one of the PhD advisors in this research study.
In total, 38 grant recipients of the two Eco-Innovation Cooperation programs were interviewed on the Swedish side; 16 participating in the Sino-Swedish Eco-innovation Cooperation program and 22 participating in the Sweden-Brazil program. The list of the participants awarded funding was obtained through
VINNOVA’s staff. The information is public and available on VINNOVA’s website. The list is also included in Appendix C.
The in-depth interviews conducted with the participants of the Eco-Innovation Cooperation programs were semi-structured and comprised of in-open-ended questions. The duration of the interviews varied between a minimum of 30 minutes to a maximum of two hours. The average interview length was one hour. The questionnaire aimed to capture the actors’ views about participating in international STI collaboration, their perceptions about the role of the government, their motivations for engaging in international research cooperation with Brazil and China and challenges encountered. The interviews with the different participants were transcribed in full, resulting in texts comprising of 7 to 16 pages each. Through the empirical data, different categories of research collaboration were elicited and were categorized into taxonomy of research collaboration (see Appendix D).
Furthermore, interviews are not linear or static processes and researchers should move away from naïve notions about the interviewer-interviewee relationship.
For instance, pre-conceived ideas by the researcher and the interview subjects can play a role in interview experiences. Self-awareness of such tendencies can be beneficial to the researcher. There were instances when the respondents implied I represented VINNOVA. This association occurred in spite of stating, in the beginning of each interview, that I was a PhD candidate at Lund University;
therefore, an independent researcher and not a VINNOVA employee representing the agency’s interests.
As mentioned earlier, one of my PhD advisors is also a VINNOVA employee and her affiliation with the funding agency enabled me to gain access to the interview subjects. Such uncommon arrangement meant that the majority of the people contacted for an interview agreed to be interviewed and seemed positive about sharing their views regarding their research projects with someone who they perceived as working on behalf of VINNOVA.
126.96.36.199 Moving away from naïve notions
During the interviews and analyses, the following questions guided the interpretation of the empirical data: What are the intentions that emerge from the respondents’ statements and from the transcribed interview material? Are
there any inconsistencies that can be identified in the interview accounts or implicit views that were not apparent? I listened attentively to the participants during the interviews and I adjusted to their responses and reactions. This means that I accepted the participants’ statements as true representations of circumstances. In other words, I presumed a minimum level of rationality and coherence from the interview subjects, while remaining skeptical of the participants’ assertions.
As researchers or as PhD candidates, we aim to achieve truthfulness and validity in our accounts; our desire is for the text to represent some kind of truth or facts. At the same time, we bring in our own interpretations and views when writing a dissertation. Facts, as Hacking (1999. p 22) argues, are words that are used “to say something about the world or what we think about the world.” For instance the words truth, reality and knowledge are not objects in the world but they represent a view about something else. They are widely used and a researcher must exercise skepticism about arguments in which these words are contained. It is presumably challenging to include the interview subject’s own words or perhaps his or her beliefs because we cannot access what is in the individual’s mind. Thus, in reality, we write down our interpretations of what others describe and interpret. This means that we interpret others’
interpretations of the world.
188.8.131.52 Interpretation as a conscious act
Careful interpretation, according to Alvesson and Sköldberg (2009) considers language, assumptions, pre-understandings, ideas, and thoughts and are major determinants of interpretation. When we interpret our data, we reflect on it.
Thus, reflection involves interpretation of the interpretation and a critical view of how we understand and make sense of the empirical material. What is the implication for a PhD student or for any academic researcher? It means that interpretation of research material is a conscious act and an exercise in awareness. This awareness is the understanding that knowledge extracted from research is constructed by the researcher. Elements such as culture, language, narratives, norms and theories all influence researchers’ interpretations of the empirical data but ultimately, it is the researcher who constructs knowledge.
Regardless of how collective or participatory a research process is (others judge and read our work; we interact with others to receive feedback and to produce research), how knowledge is constructed by the researcher matters at the individual level. Thus, research as an individual activity is ultimately the result of the interpretations and insights that originate from the researcher’s own
thinking and choices. The researcher decides which information to leave out and which data to include. The researcher is critical of his or her own interpretations of the empirical material.
Alvesson and Kärreman (2007) argue that being aware of the importance of language in research is vital. What they mean is not simply that one should pay attention to vocabulary or written text. They claim that sensitivity to language is important because “vocabularies don’t simply mirror the world; they produce and reveal as much as they conceal. The language used in a study to a large extent determines the results” (Alvesson and Kärreman, 2007, p. 1267). Thus, researchers not just encounter empirical material and see where the data leads them but they are always interacting with the empirical material and revisiting the text. The text can be seen as a modeling clay; the researcher, though vocabularies is continuously molding it.
The data coming from interviews, observations or reports are not immune to interpretations and therefore, intervention from individuals or from events.
Individuals and the context shape interview statements, observations and written reports. It goes without saying that in reality, everything is affected. This means that there is no research material that is free from interpretation or pre-conceptions. The words we hear from interviewees are their views about a phenomenon or a topic. These words are loaded with meanings. Alvesson and Sköldberg (2000, p. 9) claim that “there is no such thing as unmediated data or facts; they are always the result of interpretation.” In social life, as individuals, we are often interpreting other people’s behaviors and actions but also other people’s interpretations of the world.
Empirical analysis was conducted not only by using coding as an analytical method but also by interpreting the statements of the actors represented across the three case studies. In addition, coding and re-coding was performed which means that first I coded an interview account and months later returned to the same interpretation of that account, read it and re-interpreted it. This enabled me to extract additional information from the material and gain different insights complementing initial analysis. During interviews, I gave interviewees the opportunity to talk about their projects in general terms. Certainly, I conducted semi-structured interviews to guide me but they were often comprised of open-ended questions and used to initiate a conversation when necessary.