Brambilla R, Serrelli E (2016). The goals and conditions of successful interdisciplinarity. Some critical guidelines in planning, managing and evaluating interdisciplinary projects. Paradigmi. Rivista di critica filosofica 2/2016, in press. ISSN 1120-3404
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This conceptual analysis calls for deeper critical reflection on the goals and conditions of interdisciplinarity. The “surplus of knowledge” expected from interdisciplinarity should be interpreted as the production of new ways of thinking, leaving recognizable traces in the involved disciplines. Particular conditions for success should be taken into account when planning and evaluating interdisciplinary endeavours: an object, a goal, regular shared practices, and the researchers’ capacities for believing in and sticking to specific attitudes. The highest goal of interdisciplinarity – the transformation of society and culture – is related to the meaning and effects of research, and to science’s placement in contemporary society.
interdisciplinarity, philosophy of science, pedagogy, education, research, social organization of knowledge
…we introduce some critical goals for research, particularly for interdisciplinary research, claiming that ‘production of knowledge’ cannot be understood as simple accumulation of data and information. We also make some examples of interdisciplinary works that have been able to produce new ways of thinking. Then, we outline some specific material conditions that make those goals reachable, and that represent precise steps for interdisciplinary research. We claim that success of interdisciplinary work requires specific attitudes among involved disciplinarists, a shared object of study, a goal – built and kept –, and effective working practices based on sharing. In the last section, we turn again to the issue of goals, proposing a specific, new goal for researches that involve different disciplines. Intersciplinarity has, for us, a peculiar potential in our times, in the context of present modes of science production. We think science should be asked for an assumption of political responsibility, and that interdisciplinarity has a particular role in activating the transformative potential of knowledge towards society. We are aware that human and social sciences will be more familiar with this kind of goal. We also know that there are plenty of cases of successful interdisciplinarity that do not contemplate this level of reflection, especially in the natural and ‘hard’ sciences whose researches are less familiar with a constant and explicit component of science politics. Nonetheless, we think that the goal of transforming society and culture could be an important criterion for selection and evaluation, and that this in turn could motivate also ‘hard science’ to look for uncommon dialogues with disciplines that are normally seen as the most far removed, and to orientate their efforts in the same direction of affecting and improving society.