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SRC interdisciplinary terrain

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Discussions of the challenges and opportunities in interdisciplinary working

Discussions of the challenges and opportunities in interdisciplinary working

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  • 1. Getting comfortable in new intellectual terrain (and shaping that terrain) © Phelps 2006 Sarah CornellPlanetary Boundaries Research Initiative, SRC
  • 2. Interdisciplinary knowledge and research are important because:1.  Creativity often requires interdisciplinary knowledge.2.  Immigrants often make important contributions to their new field.3.  Disciplinarians often commit errors which can be best detected by people familiar with two or more disciplines.4.  Some worthwhile topics of research fall in the interstices among the traditional disciplines.5.  Many intellectual, social, and practical problems require interdisciplinary approaches.6.  Interdisciplinary knowledge and research serve to remind us of the unity-of- knowledge ideal.7.  Interdisciplinarians enjoy greater flexibility in their research.8.  More so than narrow disciplinarians, interdisciplinarians often treat themselves to the intellectual equivalent of traveling in new lands.9.  Interdisciplinarians may help breach communication gaps in the modern academy, thereby helping to mobilize its enormous intellectual resources in the cause of greater social rationality and justice.10. By bridging fragmented disciplines, interdisciplinarians might play a role in the defense of academic freedom. Nissani, M. (1997) Ten Cheers for Interdisciplinarity. Social Science Journal 34 (2) 201-216
  • 3. My own trajectoryTime…
  • 4. Taking those steps into new terrain… Statistical methods Researcher responsibilityAnalytical techniques …Real world problemsData quality issuesReal world problems You don’t necessarily know what skills you’re building up as you go along, but you’d better make sure they are Synthesis skills good ones! Research strategy planning Practical policy insight …And more real world problems
  • 5. Unmapped terrain… In many institutions, interdisciplinarity is flourishing behind a “subject facade” What do we do about the “concealed reality of interdisciplinarity”? Keith Clayton (1985), in L. Levin and I. Lind, Interdisciplinarity Revisited Who is actually And what isdoing this work…? research? Isn’t it Often: students all unmapped terrain…?
  • 6. Piece of advice No. 1…•  Have fun – enjoy being undisciplined
  • 7. What tensions do we face? rigour innovation “alien” “native”
  • 8. Problems in resolving the tensions abound… ESF-COST RESCUE, 2012 EURAB 2004 US National Academies COSEPUP, 2004 ESSP Amsterdam Declaration 2001… But surely the right way ahead!…Previously men could be divided simply into the learned and theignorant… But your specialist cannot be brought in under either ofthese two categories.He is not learned, for he is formally ignorant of all that does not enterinto his specialty; but neither is he ignorant, because he is “a scientist”and “knows” very well his own tiny portion of the universe.We shall have to say that he is a learned ignoramus, which is a veryserious matter, as it implies that he is a person who is ignorant, not inthe fashion of the ignorant man, but with all the petulance of one whois learned is his own special line. (Ortega y Gasset, The revolt of the masses, 1932)
  • 9. Rigour ? Innovation
  • 10. There is a playfulness of mind… as well as a truly fierce drive to make sense of the world, which the technician as such usually lacks. Perhaps he is too well trained, too preciselyM Ramirez, www.cagle.com trained. Since one can be trained only in what is already known, training sometimes incapacitates one from learning new ways; it makes one rebel against what is bound to be at first loose and even sloppy. C.W. Mills, 1959, The sociological imagination Rigour Innovation Reflexivity
  • 11. Piece of advice No. 2…•  Have fun – enjoy being undisciplined•  Whatever you do, do it well
  • 12. “Deep interdisciplinarity” = Earth system science’s research relationships with the human and social sciencesWhat have I learnt about research relationships?•  Some are easier to promote than others   but there’s no telling in advance which will work!•  ‘Ambience’ matters•  So does serendipity   opportunities for serendipity can be planned•  A sense of collaborative endeavour grows with time
  • 13. Foundations Image fromwww.ribbonfarm.com
  • 14. On pragmatism… Timeframe Language Dis/Comfort
  • 15. My worldview is notsubjective or arbitrary - just partial “Post-Normal science” - carries an awareness of the limitations of a single viewpoint in understanding complex systems Funtowicz and Ravetz “Mode 2 science” – Nowotny et al Jarvie, 1964…
  • 16. Piece of advice No. 3…•  Have fun – enjoy being undisciplined•  Whatever you do, do it well•  Read – write – THINK