22 SES 04 B, Policy, Management and Governance in Higher Education
Interdisciplinarity research has become a major preoccupation of education policy, universities and research funding agencies, at european and international levels. This preoccupation is related to the ambitions and expectations of many researchers who question the potential and limits of their own discipline and how to establish new connections with other disciplines, to involve them in a constructive dialogue and in order to analyse, understand and solve the complex problems of our time that are beyond the scope of a single discipline. The growing interest in interdisciplinarity responds so to a growing awareness of the complexity of contexts and objects of research and the need to resolve human, social, political and environmental problems. These issues call for the decompartmentalization of disciplinary knowledge, which often remains locked within the boundaries of disciplines still constrained by the hierarchical and discipline-based organization of universities. Based on the growing number of studies dealing with the institutional, epistemological, conceptual and methodological challenges of interdisciplinary research in Higher Education, the priority aim of the present proposal is to make a theoretical and empirical contribution to the current reflections on interdisciplinarity by examining different interdisciplinary research practices in a variety of academic contexts, and to question how interdisciplinary research is likely to act as a lever for transformation of the disciplinary Academy.
Interdisciplinary research is a complex issue that includes several complementary levels: institutional, organisational, epistemological, theoretical, methodological and forms of collaboration. Moreover, publication, promotion and evaluation are also a matter of concern considering that they have to be adapted to this new form of research and education between and beyond disciplines. On a comparative basis with international studies on practical interdisciplinary research, we will discuss the potential and limitations of inter- and transdisciplinarity by relying in particular on the results of a research project on interdisciplinary practices, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), in order to treat the complexity of interdisciplinarity in action. We will try to open up new opportunities for the future development(s), more or less programmatic, of interdisciplinarity. What are the institutional arrangements which should be implemented to ensure the sustainability of interdisciplinarity in the academy? Is there an inter- and transdisciplinary scientific community that specifically shares values, concepts, theories and methods? Is such a “disciplinary” and mainstream community of interdisciplinarity desirable or should we rather develop new models of collaboration across organisations that do not fall into the trap of disciplinarity? Would we say that the researchers who are interested in the innovative way of interdisciplinary research represent a new researcher profile with a clearly interdisciplinary identity? Is interdisciplinarity a simple recombination of existing disciplines or a new thought style that requires a dedisciplined academic organisation and a recognition of its special status in relation to the disciplines?
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