How interdisciplinary research is changing the world and why
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How Interdisciplinary Research Is Changing the World – And Why?. Allen F. Repko, University of British Columbia 2010. Introduction. I. The emerging consensus on what interdisciplinarity is and its relationship to integration, How interdisciplinary research

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How interdisciplinary research is changing the world and why

How Interdisciplinary Research Is Changing the World – And Why?

Allen F. Repko,

University of British Columbia

2010


Introduction

Introduction

I. The emerging consensus on what interdisciplinarity is and its relationship to integration,

How interdisciplinary research

and learning is changing the world and why

III. Headwinds and hopeful developments for interdisciplinary research and learning.


Introduction1

Introduction

The recent publication of several books on IDS show that the growing and diverse field of interdisciplinary studies has finally come of age:

1. Peter Weingart and Nico Stehr’s (Eds.) (2000) Practising Interdisciplinarity

2. Carol S. Palmer’s (2001) Work at the Boundaries of Science


Introduction2

Introduction

3. Rick Szostak’s (2004) Classifying Science: Phenomena, Data, Theory, Method, Practice

4.The National Academies’ (2005) Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research

5.Sheron J. Derry, Christian D. Shunn, and Morton Ann Gernsbacher (Eds). (2005), Interdisciplinary Collaboration: An Emerging Cognitive Science


Introduction3

Introduction

6. John Atkinson and Malcolm Crowe (Eds.) (2006), Interdisciplinary Research: Diverse Approaches in Science, Technology, Health and Society

7. Tress et al (2005), From Landscape Research to Landscape Planning: Aspects of Integration Education and Application

8. Repko’s (2008) Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory


Introduction4

Introduction

9. Szostak’s (2009) The Causes of Economic Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

10. The Oxford Handbook on Interdisciplinarity (forthcoming)

11. Repko, Szostak, and Newell (Eds.) (2011)

Interdisciplinary Research: Case Studies of

Integrative Understandings of Complex

Problems


I defining ids

I. DEFINING IDS

Reasons for Agreeing on a Definition

of Interdisciplinary Studies

1. To make the case that IDS is, in fact, contributing something distinctive and valuable to the academy and to society at large


I defining ids1

I. DEFINING IDS

Reasons for Agreeing on a Definition

of Interdisciplinary Studies

2. To establish best research practices, engage in theory development, and produce meaningful research products.


I defining ids2

I. DEFINING IDS

Reasons for Agreeing on a Definition

of Interdisciplinary Studies

3. To achieve greater depth and sophistication in the teaching of interdisciplinarity.


I defining ids3

I. DEFINING IDS

  • Reasons for Agreeing on a Definition

    of Interdisciplinary Studies

    4. To facilitate meaningful assessment of student work and program effectiveness


I defining ids4

I. DEFINING IDS

  • Reasons for Agreeing on a Definition

    of Interdisciplinary Studies

    5.To create common ground among practitioners and thereby communicate effectively across different knowledge domains

    6. To enhance student morale.


I defining ids5

I. DEFINING IDS

B. Two Conceptions of IDS

1. Generalists: understand IDS loosely

to mean “any form of dialog or

interaction between two or more

disciplines” while minimizing,

obscuring, or rejecting altogether the

role of integration


I defining ids6

I. DEFINING IDS

  • Integration is a process by which ideas, data and information, methods, tools, concepts and/or theories from two or more disciplines are synthesized, connected, or blended (Klein, 2011)


I defining ids7

I. DEFINING IDS

B. Two Conceptions of IDS (cont’d)

2. Integrationists:stress the priority of

integration and are concerned with

developing a distinctively

interdisciplinary theory-based

research process and describing how

it operates


I defining ids8

I. DEFINING IDS

C. Prominent Definitions of IDS

1. Klein and Newell (1997)

2. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine(2005)

3. Veronica Boix Mansilla (2005)

4. Diana Rhoten et al (2006)

5. National Science Foundation (2009)


I defining ids9

I. DEFINING IDS

D. Elements These Definitions Share

  • IDS research has a particular substantive focus

  • This focus extends beyond a single disciplinary perspective

  • A distinctive characteristic of IDS is that it focuses on a problem or question that is complex


I defining ids10

I. DEFINING IDS

D. Elements These Definitions Share (cont’d)

  • IDS research is characterized by an identifiable process or mode of inquiry

  • IDS research draws explicitly on the disciplines

  • The disciplines provide insights into the specific substantive focus of interdisciplinary research


I defining ids11

I. DEFINING IDS

D. Elements These Definitions Share (cont’d)

  • IDS research involves integration

  • The objective of integration is pragmatic: to a produce a cognitive advancement in the form of a new understanding, a new product, or a new meaning [Note: The term meaning is important in the humanities, where it is often equated with the intent of the author or artist (Bal, 2002, p. 27)


I defining ids12

I. DEFINING IDS

E. An Integrated Definition

“Interdisciplinary studies is a process of answering a question, solving a problem, or addressing a topic that is too broad or complex to be dealt with adequately by a single discipline, and draws on disciplinary perspectives and integrates their insights to produce a cognitive advancement.” (Repko, 2008, p. 12)


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

  • How

    1. IDS is an incubator of new academic fields: e.g.,

    • environmental & sustainability studies,

    • cultural analysis,

    • criminal justice studies

    • aural architecture

    • urban and policy studies

    • crime and justice studies

    • sociological cultural studies

    • visual culture

    • ethnomusicology


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world1

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

A. How

2. IDS is producing new understandings of complex social problems and cultural phenomena: Examples:

a. The Center for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

b. Stuart Henry’s (2009) interdisciplinary study of Social Deviance

c. Mieke Bal’s pioneering work


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world2

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

A. How

3. The rise of transdisciplinarity: Two strands:

a. collaborations between academic researchers and industrial/private sectors for the purpose of product and technology development

b. academic experts collaborating with social actors who have local knowledge and contextual interests to achieve democratic solutions to complex problems such as sustainability and risks of technological modernizations such as nuclear power plants


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world3

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

B. Why: Drivers of Interdisciplinarity

1. The interconnectedness and interdependence of our world—Friedman (2005): The World is Flat

a. not only is the world’s economic activity increasingly connected and interdependent (with the rise of the Internet and telecommunications infrastructure), but so are the world’s problems

b. Friedman (2005): “If you don’t visit the bad neighborhoods, the bad neighborhoods are going to visit you.”


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world4

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

2. Problems are complex and ill-structured

a. Two kinds of complexity: real-world problems that involve (1) natural systems and human society, and the complexity associated with (2)the meaning of cultural artifacts, past and present, such as literature, visual art (e.g., films, paintings, sculptures, multimedia), and performance art (e.g., plays, dance, and musical compositions).

b. Job complexity

c. The application of systems theory to complex problems

d. Business


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world5

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

  • 3. The need to solve persisting societal problems

    • IDS community development projects in urban and rural areas typically involve workers from various disciplines and institutions who join forces around complex social issues of mutual concern such as poverty, health, housing, the environment….

    • International university-to-university partnerships: E.g., George Mason University, the National Autonomous University of Honduras, and the University of Costa Rica—working on domestic violence


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world6

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

4. The location of basic research problems are at the interfaces of disciplines

a. Klein: “hybridization”

b. E. O. Wilson (1998) “consilience”

c. Elias Zerhouni (2003), NIH Roadmap for Medical Research,

d. The American Advancement of Science’s CEO Alan I. Leshner (2004)

e. Denise Caruso & Diana Rhoten (2001)


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world7

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

f. But Szostak (2007) cautions: The hope is that interdisciplinarity will advance not so much as revolutionary science (to use Kuhn’s terminology), but as normal science: “identifying weaknesses in existing insights, searching for compensating insights from other communities of scholars, ...and striving to overcome disagreements between disciplinary insights” (p. 12).


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world8

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

5. The need to produce revolutionary insights and generative technologies

a. Revolutionary insights: ideas that have the capacity to transform how we learn, think, and produce new knowledge

b. Generative technologies: those whose novelty and power not only find applications of great value but also have the capacity to transform existing disciplines and generate new ones” (p. 35).


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world9

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

5. The need to produce revolutionary insights and generative technologies (cont’d)

c. Producing transformative insights and technologies requires what Robert J. Sternberg (1996) calls “successful intelligence.”

d. IDS learning fosters the development of “successful intelligence.” Marc Spooner (2004): the interdisciplinary research process, as it is generally conceptualized, facilitates the creative process by ignoring or removing or altering disciplinary constraints that otherwise would make interdisciplinary work impossible. In fact, says Spooner, the research process may itself be fruitfully understood as a form of creativity (p. 86).


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world10

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

6. The need for integrative thinking

a. Joel Podolny, former Dean of Yale’s Business School: “Effective leaders need to be able to own and frame problems…then work across organizational boundaries in order to solve those problems. The curriculum in the past was broken down by these disciplinary silos and because of that, got in the way of effective management and leadership….The real value to be added is in working across those silos”

(Business Week, September 12, 2006).


Ii how why ids research learning are changing the world11

II. HOW & WHY IDS RESEARCH & LEARNING ARE CHANGING THE WORLD

6. The need for integrative thinking

b. Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future (2008).

“Against all odds,” says Gardner, “individuals seek synthesis.” The “most ambitious form of synthesis occurs in interdisciplinary work.”


Iii headwinds hopeful developments

III. HEADWINDS & HOPEFUL DEVELOPMENTS

  • HEADWINDS

    1. Culture Clash

    2. “We’re already doing it”

    3. IDS = Postmodernism

    4. Misinformation

    5. Other


Iii headwinds hopeful developments1

III. HEADWINDS & HOPEFUL DEVELOPMENTS

B. HOPEFUL DEVELOPMENTS

1. Renewed interest in IDS research

and education

2. Integration is widely regarded as the primary methodology of IDS

3. Funding opportunities for IDS research


Iii headwinds hopeful developments2

III. HEADWINDS & HOPEFUL DEVELOPMENTS

B. HOPEFUL DEVELOPMENTS

4. The “webbing of knowledge”

5. The Development of an

empirically grounded targeted

assessment rubric

6. The collection of case studies on the IDS research process (forthcoming in 2011)


Conclusion

CONCLUSION

  • IDS must produce

  • IDS must co-exist

  • The great challenges confronting today’s scholarship is beyond the ability of any one approach—disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary—to resolve. Let us work towards creating common ground as we seek to improve the human condition.


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