This chapter explains the meaning of interdisciplinary studies, defines
interdisciplinary studies and the term interdisciplinarity, explains the
premise of interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary studies, examines how
the terms are variably used today, and identifies metaphors commonly associated with interdisciplinary work.
Interdisciplinarity is necessitated by complexity, specifically by the structure and behavior of complex systems. The nature of complex systems provides a rationale for interdisciplinary study. An examination of complex systems yields new insights into the practice of interdisciplinary study and confirms widely accepted principles for the conduct of interdisciplinary inquiry. Complex systems also unify the apparently divergent approaches to the interdisciplinary study of the humanities and sciences. Most importantly, the distinguishing but elusive characteristic of interdisciplinary studies—synthesis or integration—is at last explained in terms of the unique self-organizing pattern of a complex system.
Interdisciplinary synthesis presents heightened cognitive demands and requires deliberate instruction. It implies the integration of knowledge and modes of thinking in two or more disciplines in search for better understanding. Understanding how individuals learn to integrate different forms of expertise to create a work of art, explain a multifaceted phenomenon, fashion a new technology or propose a sustainable environmental solution is essential if we are to cultivate this capacity among collegiate and pre-collegiate youth. What cognitive processes are central to interdisciplinary integration? This chapter attempts to answer these and other important questions.
Many of today’s global scientific challenges require the joint involvement of researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds (social sciences, environmental sciences, climatology, medicine, etc.). Such interdisciplinary research teams face many challenges resulting from differences in training and scientific culture. Interdisciplinary education programs are required to train truly interdisciplinary scientists with respect to the
critical factor skills and competences. For that purpose this paper presents the Methodology for Interdisciplinary Research (MIR) framework.
As emphasis on interdisciplinary and convergent research grows, researchers and institutions can benefit from additional insights into how to build interdisciplinary integration within the research process. This article presents signs of successful interdisciplinary research and proposes
strategies that researchers can implement to help create and sustain integration across fields.Drawing on the authors’ experiences, other examples from hazards research, and the literature on interdisciplinarity, the article asserts that successful interdisciplinary research incorporates full intellectual participation by each contributing field, forming a multi-way partnership.