Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.
The journal History of Intellectual Culture has a special issue out on interdisciplinarity titled, “FREE SPACE: Reconsidering Interdisciplinary Theory and Practice.”
Here is an excerpt from the guest editors’ introduction:
“Interdisciplinarity (i) accepted the presence of disciplines as a fact of academic life, and (ii) endorsed disciplines as the building blocks of university programs. However, traditional disciplinary values and priorities are less of a fact in the academic world as programs have shifted focus from the construction of knowledge to the development of skills (e.g., enterprise skills, communication skills, information technology skills, interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills, and the like). As the naturalness of disciplinarity is questioned, the status of disciplines as the only source of university programs likewise becomes dubious.
So, in one sense, interdisciplinarity reinforces the illusion that disciplinary knowledge is somehow natural. But does this then mean that we can give up on the concept of interdisciplinarity altogether? It seems more likely that new attention must be given to the ways in which knowledge is produced, recognizing the contingent historical fact of disciplinarity while not supposing that disciplinary knowledge is natural and that the knowledge that emerges from between disciplines is merely an afterthought.”
One particularly interesting paper in the issue is “Science and Public Discourse” by Liora Salter. Salter distinguishing “working science” (i.e., basic research) from “mandated science” (i.e., science focused on societal problems) and the consequences of the growth in “mandated science.” It’s worth a read.