These are the slides from my talk at the GISCience 2016 conference. There is more information on my blog, but the abstract is:
Over the past 25 years, I have experienced an inside track view of two interdisciplinary research fields: Geographical Information Science (GIScience) and Citizen Science. Over that period, I was also involved in about 20 multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary projects. As a result, I also found myself evaluating and funding x-disciplinary projects.
On the basis of these experiences, I’d argue that Interdisciplinarity is always hard, risky, require compromises, accommodations, listening, and making mistakes. The excitement from the outputs and outcomes does not always justify the price. Frequently, there is no-follow on project – it’s been too exhausting.
Considering the project level challenges, viewing interdisciplinary areas of studies emerging is especially interesting. You can notice how concepts are being argued and agreed on. You can see what is inside and what is outside, and where the boundary is drawn. You can see how methodologies, jargon, acceptable behaviour, and modes of operations get accepted or rejected – and from the inside, you can nudge the field and sometimes see the impact of your actions.
GIScience was born as an interdisciplinary field of study, and the period of consolidation that I have seen was supposed to lead to stability and growth. This did not happen. Take any measure that you like: size of conferences, papers – or even the argument if the field deserve a Wikipedia page. Something didn’t work.
In contrast, Citizen Science is already attracting to its conferences audience in the many hundreds – the Citizen Science Association include 4000 (free) members, The European Citizen Science Association 180 (paid) – and that is in the first 2 years since they’ve established.
In the talk, I explore the way in which interdisciplinary projects and fields work, highlight the similarities and differences, and suggest the issues that have led to the outcomes that we see today