Definitions: A Baseline Vocabulary for Interdisciplinary
Definitions that do not go beyond the level of buzzwords result in ill-conceived and underdeveloped projects, programs, and grant proposals. The three most widely used terms multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary constitute a baseline vocabulary.
Multidisciplinarity (MD): juxtaposes two or more disciplines or bodies of knowledge focused on a common problem, question, topic, or theme. Multiple perspectives broaden understanding, but the relationship of disciplines does not go beyond serial or encyclopedic order. The status quo of disciplines is not interrogated, and individuals maintain their original identities.
Keywords: juxtaposing, sequencing, coordinating
â€¢ separate work and serial inputs from different disciplines
â€¢ a mix of discipline-based courses with no integrative courses or activities
Interdisciplinary (ID): integratesinformation, data, methods, tools, concepts ortheories from two or more disciplines or bodies of knowledgein order to address a complex problem, question, topic, or theme.
Keywords: integrating, linking, blending, interacting, collaborating
Indicators of Interdisciplinary in Research
â€¢ patterning and testing of the mutual relatedness among materials, ideas, and methods
â€¢ iteration and ongoing reflection on integration
â€¢ generation of new insights, disciplinary relationships, and integrative constructs
â€¢ micro-combining of models that unify disparate approaches
â€¢ emergence of a new community of knowers with a hybrid interlanguage
Indicators of Interdisciplinary in Collaborative Research
â€¢ joint definition of goals and objectives
â€¢ joint definition of problems, questions, and workplan
â€¢ clarification of differences in language, methods, tools, concepts, and theories
â€¢ on-going communication and interaction
â€¢ mutual learning and equal power sharing
â€¢ collaborative inputs and joint activities
â€¢ interdependence, partnership, and a sense of teamness
â€¢ progressive sharing of empirical and theoretical work
Indicators of Interdisciplinary in Education
â€¢ full-time appointments in autonomous programs or departments with authority for curriculum, budget, staff, and rewards
â€¢ a secure location in the organizational hierarchy of a campus
â€¢ interdisciplinary core seminars and theses/projects
â€¢ theme-, problem-, or issue-based courses
â€¢ separate theory and methodology courses and training modules in pertinent fields with models of interdisciplinary work
â€¢ explicit comparison of disciplinary methodologies and epistemologies
â€¢ a conscious effort to achieve integration and synthesis
â€¢ team planning, joint teaching and assessment, and shared vocabulary and assumptions
â€¢ a larger, more holistic understanding of the core theme, problem, or issue
Transdisciplinarity (TD): transcends the narrow scope of disciplinary worldviews through more comprehensive frameworks (e.g., general systems theory, feminist theory, sustainability, new methodological and conceptual frameworks for health and wellness) and transcending boundaries of academe and stakeholders in society (e.g., participatory research on real-world problems).
Keywords: transcending, transgressing, transforming
â€¢ a new paradigm, unifying theory, or conceptual framework
â€¢ methodological or conceptual integration at global levels
â€¢ synthetic refiguration or recontextualization of knowledge
A Comparative View of Definitions in Team Science:
Stokols, D. Hall, K.,Taylor, B.K., Moser, R.P. (2008). Overview of the Field and Introduction to the Supplement. Am J Prev Med,35(2S): S79.
|Unidisciplinarity is a process in which researchers from a single discipline work together to address a common research problem.
|A team of pharmacologists collaborate on a laboratory study of the relationships between nicotine consumption and insulin metabolism.
|Multidisciplinarity is a sequential process whereby researchers in different disciplines work independently, each from his or her own discipline-specific perspective, with a goal of eventually combining efforts to address a common research problem.
|A pharmacologist, health psychologist and neuroscientist each contribute sections to a multi-authored manuscript that reviews research in their respective fields pertaining to the links between nicotine consumption, changes in brain chemistry and caloric intake induced by nicotine, and physical activity levels.
|Interdisciplinary is an interactive process in which researchers work jointly, each drawing from his or her own discipline-specific perspective, to address a common research problem.
|A pharmacologist, health psychologist and neuroscientist conduct a collaborative study to examine the interrelations among patterns of nicotine consumption, brain chemistry, caloric intake, and physical activity levels. Their research design incorporates conceptual and methodologic approaches drawn from each of their respective fields.
|Transdisciplinarity is an integrative process in which researchers work jointly to develop and use a share conceptual framework that synthesizes and extends discipline-specific theories, concepts, methods or all three to create new models and language to address a common research problem.
|A pharmacologist, health psychologist and neuroscientist conduct a collaborative study to examine the interrelations among patterns of nicotine consumption, brain chemistry, caloric intake, and physical activity levels.Based on their findings, they develop a neurobehavioral model of the links among tobacco consumption, brain chemistry, insulin metabolism, physical activity, and obesity that integrates and extends the concepts and methods drawn from their respective fields.