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Interdisciplinarity: popularization in the world community, problems and solutions proposed in 2019

Interdisciplinarity is widely acknowledged as essential to the generation of new and ground-breaking research results, and there is an increasingly urgent global demand for scientific research that dares to think across traditional boundaries between fields and disciplines and strives to create fertile ground for new approaches and insights.

The integration of methods, data, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from different scientific fields is crucial in the effort to expand the scope of collective human knowledge.

However, in practice, specialists who run the risk of doing such research face a number of difficulties. Ruth Müller, Professor of Science and Technology Policy at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), told about this in her interview in 2019. And although she spoke of the specific problems that she encountered while working at the multidisciplinary research center in Sweden, we see that these problems are global in nature.

  • The most important benchmark of successful research to date is often the number of publications in reputable journals. So this resulted in pressure to publish more articles in such journals. Since the most prestigious journals are often geared towards a traditionally disciplinary audience, this forced researchers to "discipline" their work to a certain extent in order to get published.
  • Some studies indicate that researchers perceive the cost of working interdisciplinarily to be potentially very high—that it poses challenges to their career development, for instance.
  • It is very difficult to find a specialist reviewer who will be able to assess the importance of an interdisciplinary project abstracting from a narrow “disciplinary” point of view. To evaluate multidisciplinary research, a number of assessment criteria need to be regulated. Alongside publications, these might include research findings that lead to successful applications in society, or that result in actionable knowledge that empowers communities or society at large to tackle social and environmental challenges.
  • Interdisciplinary research takes time. If you want to develop something together, you first have to find a common language; immerse yourself in each other's way of thinking.

Thus, despite the growing interest in interdisciplinary research and understanding of their role in the science of the future among modern scientists, there are a number of difficulties that adherents of this direction have yet to overcome.

Read about the experience of some countries and organizations in our news reviews.