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Acknowledging and responding to criticisms of interdisciplinarity / Reconnaître et répondre aux critiques de l’interdisciplinarité

By Romain Sauzet

A French version of this post is available

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Romain Sauzet (biography)

What are the core arguments that critics of interdisciplinarity employ? Which of these criticisms can help to clarify what interdisciplinarity is and what it isn’t?

While some of the criticisms of interdisciplinarity stem from a general misunderstanding of its purpose or from a bad experience, others seem well-founded. Thus, while some must be rejected, others should be accepted.

I outline five different types of criticisms drawn from three main sources: (1) academic writings (see reference list), (2) an empirical survey on interdisciplinarity (Sauzet 2017) (3) informal discussions. These criticisms extend the ideas presented in an earlier blog post, Why We Should Not Ignore Interdisciplinarity’s Critics by Rick Szostak. I reflect on how interdisciplinarity could be improved by attending to key criticisms.

Read moreAcknowledging and responding to criticisms of interdisciplinarity / Reconnaître et répondre aux critiques de l’interdisciplinarité

Recent posts

Researcher activism: A voice of experience

By Dorothy Broom

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Dorothy Broom (biography)

In reflecting on my researcher-activist role in women’s health, I’ve come up with six tips that may provide guidance to those embarking on such a role. The lessons I draw can also be relevant in other fields of endeavour, in population health, environmental research and beyond.

Tip 1: Build your legitimacy with those you are aiming to influence and those you are advocating for

My academic research in the 1980s and 90s on the politics of women’s health was distinct from my feminist political activism. Prompted by intellectual curiosity, I developed a research profile that fortuitously prepared me to take on an advocacy role at a time of major policy foment.

Read moreResearcher activism: A voice of experience

HIBAR research: What is it and how can it be reinvigorated?

By Lorne A. Whitehead, Scott H. Slovic and Janet E. Nelson

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1. Lorne A. Whitehead (biography)
2. Scott H. Slovic (biography)
3. Janet E. Nelson (biography)

How can we recognize and encourage investigations that holistically fuse fundamental and applied research on a problem of interest in a manner that is both (a) integrative and recursive and (b) highly collaborative with non-university experts?

Recognition

We refer to this form of research as “Highly Integrative Basic And Responsive” (HIBAR). It adds deep university-society engagement to the work that Donald Stokes named “Pasteur’s quadrant” (Stokes 1997) and others have called “use-inspired basic research”.

Read moreHIBAR research: What is it and how can it be reinvigorated?

A heuristic framework for reflecting on joint problem framing

By BinBin Pearce and Olivier Ejderyan

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1. BinBin Pearce (biography)
2. Olivier Ejderyan (biography)

What is joint problem framing? What are the key issues that joint problem framing has to address? How can joint problem framing be improved?

What is joint problem framing?

A key aspect of tackling complex problems is effectively bringing together differing points of view. These points of view are what Craik (1943) refers to as “small-scale models” of the problem situation. These are mental models formed from each individual’s experiences, interests, knowledge and environment. These mental models then set the boundaries for what problem definitions and solutions are possible and relevant to consider.

Read moreA heuristic framework for reflecting on joint problem framing

Outbreaks, break-outs and break-times: Creating caring online workshops

By The Care Operative

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The Care Operative details

How can online workshops be productive, engaging, caring and fun? How can researchers creatively adapt to a ‘virtual normal’ and develop caring and co-operative ways of working?

In March 2020, we – 20 international sustainability science colleagues – were prohibited from meeting face-to-face by COVID-19-related travel restrictions. Yet, we had time blocked out and a detailed workshop schedule. Within 48 hours, with invaluable help from experienced facilitator Concepción Piñeiro, we shifted the workshop online, adapting for virtual collaboration.

Read moreOutbreaks, break-outs and break-times: Creating caring online workshops

Highlighted posts on communication

Language matters in transdisciplinarity

By Tilo Weber

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Tilo Weber (biography)

Why should transdisciplinarians, in particular, care about multilingualism and what can be done to embrace it?

From a linguist’s point of view, I suggest that, in a globalized world, a one language policy is not only problematic from the point of view of fair power relations and equal participation opportunities, but it also weakens science as a whole by excluding ideas, perspectives, and arguments from being voiced and heard.

Read moreLanguage matters in transdisciplinarity

Sharing integrated modelling practices – Part 1: Why use “patterns”?

By Sondoss Elsawah and Joseph Guillaume

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Sondoss Elsawah (biography)

How can modellers share the tacit knowledge that accumulates over years of practice?

In this blog post we introduce the concept of patterns and make the case for why patterns are a good candidate for transmitting the ‘know-how’ knowledge about modelling practices. We address the question of how to use patterns in a second blog post.

Read moreSharing integrated modelling practices – Part 1: Why use “patterns”?

Ten communication tips for translational scientists

By Sunshine Menezes

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Sunshine Menezes (biography)

As someone who works with scientists, journalists, advocates, regulators, and other types of communication practitioners, I see the need for translational scientists who can navigate productive, start-to-finish collaborations between such groups on a daily basis.

This translation involves the use of new, more integrated approaches toward scientific work to confront wicked environmental problems society faces.

In spite of this need, cross-boundary communication poses a major stumbling block for many researchers. Science communication requires engagement with potential beneficiaries, not just a one-way transfer of information.

Read moreTen communication tips for translational scientists

Interdisciplinarity and evil – Understanding incommensurability

By J. Britt Holbrook

J. Britt Holbrook (biography)

Incommensurability is a recognized problem in interdisciplinary research. What is it? How can we understand it? And what can we do about it?

What is it?

Incommensurability is best illustrated by a real example. I once co-taught a class with a colleague from another discipline. Her discipline depends on empirical analysis of data sets, literally on counting things. I, on the other hand, am a philosopher. We don’t count. One day she said to our students, “If you don’t have an empirical element in what you’re doing, it’s not research.” I watched the students start nodding, paused for half a beat, and volunteered, “So, I’ve never done any research in my entire career.” “That’s right!” she replied, immediately, yet hesitating somewhere between a discovery and a joke.

Read moreInterdisciplinarity and evil – Understanding incommensurability