Modelling is the language of scientific discovery

By Steven Gray

steven_gray
Steven Gray (biography)

Modeling is the language of scientific discovery and has significant implications for how scientists communicate within and across disciplines. Whether modeling the social interactions of individuals within a community in anthropology, the trade-offs of foraging behaviors in ecology, or the influence of warming ocean temperatures on circulation patterns in oceanography, the ability to represent empirical or theoretical understanding through modeling provides scientists with a semi-standardized language to explain how we think the world works. In fact, modeling is such a basic part of human reasoning and communication that the formal practice of scientific modeling has been recently extended to include non-scientists, especially as a way to understand complex and poorly understood socio-environmental dynamics and to improve collaborative research.

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Distinguishing between multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinarity – ‘theological’ hair-splitting or essential categorisation?

By Gabriele Bammer

gabriele-bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

In a recent special issue of the journal Nature on interdisciplinarity (17 September 2015, p313-315), Rick Rylance criticised “arcane debates about whether research is inter-, multi-, trans-, cross- or post-discipli­nary”, opining “I find this faintly theological hair-splitting unhelpful.” Does he have a point?

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Why set up a blog site before you want to use it? First we need to find each other…

By Gabriele Bammer

gabriele-bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

The aim of this site is to host a global conversation about… well one of the challenges is that we don’t yet have an agreed name for our topic.

This is a conversation for you if your research does some of the following:

  • Gets people from different disciplines working together
  • Builds models of complex social and environmental problems
  • Helps policy makers use research evidence
  • Figures out ways to manage value conflicts
  • Finds ways to identify unknown unknowns
  • Maps interconnections between problem elements
  • Works with business to build better products
  • Involves community groups in defining the problem
  • Worries about adverse unintended consequences
  • Realises that context matters.

I think about these practices as integration and implementation sciences. You might call them systems thinking, action research, interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity, implementation science, post-normal science, mode 2 research, project management, complex systems science or a host of other terms.

Read moreWhy set up a blog site before you want to use it? First we need to find each other…