When I was a graduate student at OSU, I thought that I had no need to know about any other field than the one on which I was focusing. It was not unusual, several decades back, to stay pretty closely confined in one’s own small disciplinary world: a mono-disciplinary culture, if you will.
Trends in the eighties and nineties led to considerable treatment of both multi- and inter-disciplinary research. The distinction, in my mind, can be described as follows:
- There’s little connective tissue of the research in a multi-disciplinary effort. Typically, the data are combined simply for the context of completeness, without a consideration of any interdependence.
- An inter-disciplinary effort is one in which the critical dependencies between the fields are recognized, and there is a well-defined effort to find the intersection of solutions between the fields. The emergence of the field of biogeochemistry is a good example.
We’re now in the era of transdisciplinarism. In this mode, the scientists recognize not only the value of the different fields of study toward a common problem, but there is also a clear need or desire on the part of the scientists to become somewhat fluent in their complementary areas of research. I’ve seen this boldly expressed here at OSU in the field of ecoinformatics, in which mathematicians, ecologists and computer scientists are eagerly engaging in the challenges of each other’s fields. It’s a very exciting and energizing concept which – I believe – represents a strong core value we should embrace in the development of the OSU Research agenda.
-Rick Spinrad, VP for [Transdisciplinary!] Research
I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.
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