Fire together, wire together: The role of funding bodies in supporting interdisciplinary research

By Mohammad Momenian

Mohammad Momenian (biography)

Our brain is comprised of neural networks. The repeated occurrence of an action or experience creates established networks in the brain. Some synapses in these networks are connected to each other more strongly than others. In other words, the more neurons fire together, the stronger they wire together. This neuroscience principle can be used as a metaphor to call attention to the role of funding bodies in supporting new interdisciplinary research.

At the turn of the last century, we witnessed the emergence of new interdisciplinary fields (Rosenfield, 1992), and only recently a Nature special issue was devoted to interdisciplinarity. In that special issue, Richard Van Noorden’s (2015) paper reports that interdisciplinary research is on the rise and some fields seem to have ‘fired and wired together’ more frequently than others.

From an evolutionary perspective, those fields which have established the strongest linkages survive and get the lion’s share of funding, while those with the thinnest connections get only a negligible amount of funding and are doomed to extinction sometime in the future.

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