"a satellite for the stomach": interdisciplinarity in research
Carefully reviewing the huge sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, I ran across this relevant article by Carrie Sturrock about "odd couples" in research: " odd couples doing extraordinary research: Gastroenterologists are working with aerospace engineers, geophysicists with pediatricians, radiologists with philosophers". Some excerpts:
The buzzword in higher education is "interdisciplinary," and at many research universities, professors are no longer judged primarily on how expert and rarefied their knowledge is in a particular area. Rather, they're expected to bridge fields to remain relevant in a world with increasingly complex problems -- from global warming to the spread of infectious disease -- that demand interdisciplinary solutions.
Stanford is among those at the forefront of this shift. It's pulling professors from their insular domains to work together in ways that could not only hatch profound new discoveries but also may create novel fields of study.
The articles also describes, how it can filter into the undergraduate education, how it can work out (not only buildings but also money) as well as the inherent difficulties; for instance:
Interdisciplinary work does have pitfalls if executed poorly, said Diana Rhoten, program director at the Social Science Research Council in New York. Some observers fear the movement could lead to an erosion of expertise in individual fields. And if it's going to succeed in the long run, universities must change how they reward young academics. Historically, promotion and tenure are based on individual projects, and if young professors take the risk of working with people outside their department, they need to be rewarded, she said.
Why do I blog this? working in interdisciplinary research, I am in a similar situation (working with a social sciences background in a computer science department).