Higher education systems evolve in a constantly changing national, European and international context. New economic and political expectations, and even pressures, are put on knowledge production that should be increasingly short term, applicable and utilitarian. This situation places educational systems – and in particular within the scope of this paper universities – with complementary but ambivalent objectives, namely to pursue their mission of developing basic research while meeting the needs of expertise and application to solve complex problems in many fields (technology, health, humanitarian and financial crisis, climate change, migration, etc.). This dual imperative (solving practical problems and advancing in the production of fundamental knowledge) is strongly reiterated in the current challenges of interdisciplinarity in universities. Interdisciplinarity, without being a mere fashion effect, is encouraged at the level of national, European and international research funding agencies. European research policies, for example through the EU Framework Programs for the implementation of its community policy on science and innovation (see in particular the EU’s 8th Research Framework Program “Horizon 2020”), aim to promote scientific excellence by addressing social challenges through a problem-solving approach (Lyall, Meagher, Bruce, 2015). The recent LERU (League of European Research Universities) Position paper (Interdisciplinarity and the 21st century research-intensive university, Wernli & Darbellay, 2016), by which 21 European universities have agreed on the importance and challenges of interdisciplinarity, is also a strong signal for the decompartmentalization of the boundaries between disciplines and scientific cultures. Interdisciplinarity is perceived as “a powerful driver of knowledge creation, scientific progress and innovation”.
Beyond these speeches of promotion, reform and available financial resources, the development of interdisciplinary research has a direct impact not only on the organization and governance of universities, but also on modes of scientific production, the lives of scientific communities still massively disciplinary and the academic careers of researchers. On the basis of the literature in Interdisciplinary studies and research findings on interdisciplinary practices (Thompson Klein, 1990, Frodeman et al., 2010, Repko 2008, Darbellay & Paulsen, 2008, Darbellay, 2015), our paper first aims to define precisely what is meant by the term “interdisciplinarity” and its related terms (multidisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, etc.).The next step is to see why and how the introduction of interdisciplinarity into the university system is likely to respond both to the need to resolve complex situations in the field of social life while also allowing the development of Scientific production in basic research through the combination and decompartmentalisation of two or more disciplines. Finally, we will address the question of the evaluation of interdisciplinary research which raises many questions today within universities and funding agencies. Can disciplinary assessment criteria be applied to interdisciplinarity? Should we propose new criteria more suited to a scientific production system that mobilizes several disciplines but is not limited to them, finding its originality in the recombination and invention of new concepts, theories or methods (Uzzi et al., 2013, Darbellay et al., 2014)? In the same vein, researchers engaged in interdisciplinarity face many difficulties in developing their academic careers (and in particular young researchers), insofar as scientific trajectories are often conceived, supported and framed in a disciplinary perspective.
Darbellay, F. (2015). Rethinking inter- and transdisciplinarity: undisciplined knowledge and the emergence of a new thought style. Advances in transdisciplinarity 2004-2014, Futures, 65, 163-174. Darbellay, F. & Paulsen, T. (dir.) (2008). Le défi de l’Inter- et Transdisciplinarité. Concepts, méthodes et pratiques innovantes dans l’enseignement et la recherche. Herausforderung Inter- und Transdisziplinarität. Konzepte, Methoden und innovative Umsetzung in Lehre und Forschung. Lausanne: Presses Polytechniques Universitaires Romandes. Darbellay, F., Moody, Z., Sedooka, A., & Steffen, G. (2014). Interdisciplinary research boosted by serendipity. Creativity Research Journal, 26(1), 1-10. Darbellay, F., Sedooka, A., Paulsen, T. (2016). La recherche interdisciplinaire sous la loupe. Paroles de chercheurs. Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang. Frodeman, R., Thompson Klein, J., Mitcham, C. (eds.) (2010). The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity. Oxford University Press. Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., and Trow, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. Los Angeles: SAGE. Huutoniemi, K., Thompson Klein, J., Bruunc, H., Hukkinena, J. (2010). Analyzing interdisciplinarity: Typology and indicators. Research Policy, 39, 79-88. Jantsch, E. (1972). Towards Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity in Education and Innovation. In Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities, OECD, Paris, pp. 97-121. Kockelmans, J.J. (ed.) (1979). Interdisciplinarity and Higher Education. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Repko, A.F. (2008). Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Stokols, D. (2006). Toward a Science of Transdisciplinary Action Research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 63-77. Thompson Klein, J. (1990). Interdisciplinarity. History, Theory, and Practice. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Uzzi, B., Mukherjee, S., Stringer, M., and Jones, B. (2013). Atypical Combinations and Scientific Impact. Science, 342(6157), 468-472. Wernli, D. & Darbellay, F. (2016). Interdisciplinarity and the 21st Century Research-Intensive University. Position Paper. League of European Research Universities (LERU).
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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