Special issue published in Synthese!


Since early 1970s,

"interdisciplinarity" has become a popular label ascribed to innumerable research programs. Interdisciplinarity is driven by expected benefits of solving problems collaboratively across the boundaries of traditional disciplines and, from a different perspective, by ethical and societal problems at the intersection of science, technology and society. These problems led to the establishment of technology assessment, global change studies and sustainability research. There is a broad practice of interdisciplinary activities all over the globe. Interdisciplinary projects are supported, funded, and evaluated as a matter of course.

There are, however,

also many conceptual and practical problems with interdisciplinary research. We believe that these problems are ripe for the development of a "philosophy of and as interdisciplinarity."

The mission

of the Philosophy of / as Interdisciplinarity Network is to find a niche within the broad field of interdisciplinarity studies by combining two directions of activities:

on the one hand,

philosophical inquiry into problems regarding the practices and theories of interdisciplinary research in the style of traditional philosophy of science and,

on the other,

initiating a new philosophical practice of reflective and reflexive engagement in the world — one that questions and overcomes the boundaries that have constituted philosophy as a discipline in the 20th century. In this second direction philosophers leave the study and enter the field, integrating their work with scientists, engineers, and policy makers.


This general focus can be specified by the following topics and questions:

1 Meaning and Demarcation

What exactly is the meaning of "interdisciplinary research?in contrast to "disciplinary research? How to demarcate interdisciplinary from disciplinary research, theories, and methodologies? Are there disciplinary differences regarding the representation of knowledge and the framing of problems, and how to deal with them if they exist?

2 Concepts

Are there significant differences between "interdisciplinarity",
"cross-disciplinarity",and similar concepts? Is one of these concepts better suited than traditional

3 Purposes

"interdisciplinarity" with regard to specific purposes?

4 Relevance of a philosophical approach

Which problems and challenges of interdisciplinarity can be addressed specifically from a philosophical point of view, and what might be philosophical solutions to these problems? Is there a special role for philosophy in addressing and articulating these problems? Why philosophy?

5 Kick-off, Initial points and the "context of interest"

What is a "problem" that can only be tackled in interdisciplinary collaboration? How to characterize and identify those problems? Who has the power to define a problem, and how to deal with this power in case of conflicts?

6 Models of Interdisciplinarity and how to describe interdisciplinarity

What kind of models can we develop to describe interdisciplinary research? Linear, recursive, network or evolutionary models? Should Philosophy of / as interdisciplinarity be pulled by interdisciplinary practices or should it push those practices? Can, or should, interdisciplinarity be defined a priori or is it possible to generate a sufficient understanding of interdisciplinarity based on a variety of personal experiences?

7 Normativity and conflicts of values

What are the normative issues involved in interdisciplinary research and in interdisciplinarity research? How to mediate between conflicting values, background assumptions, and styles of thinking and doing things in interdisciplinary collaboration?

8 Institutional development

Advancing and critiquing disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge production and knowledge institutions (for example regarding criteria for tenure and promotion decisions)

9 Methodological challenges I

How to deal with conflicts that are based on varying normative standards as they are developed in traditional scientific disciplines? Conflicts that result, for example, from disagreements about what counts as a problem, what counts as a justification of a scientific claim, or what counts as an acceptable method?

10 Methodological challenges II

Do we need an interdisciplinary "meta-language" to improve communication, or how to translate between disciplinary languages?

11 Methodological challenges III

How does the ID practice organize, integrate, and synthesize knowledge? Is integration necessary, and if so: Which kinds of integration can be distinguished?

12 Quantitative approaches & methodological challenges of measuring ID

How to measure degrees of ID? What are relevant indicators? How do we justify a specific indicator system?

13 Quality assessment

How can we secure the quality of ID research projects? How to evaluate the quality of ID? What could be a good indicator of successful ID?

14 Requirements of a theory of ID

What are the basic requirements that a theory/concept of ID has to fulfill? Are these requirements somewhat universal or do they have to be context dependent? How could a theory of ID look like?