STS symposium 2018: ’Ideals and practice of interdisciplinary research’

Venue: University of Tampere, Finland

Date: Symposium June 14-15, 2018

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Keynote speakers

Jane Calvert, University of Edinburgh

Caterina Marchionni, University of Helsinki

Jaana Parviainen, University of Tampere

Juha Tuunainen, University of Oulu

Evolution and institutionalization of distinct scientific disciplines and consequent specialization of knowledge production are persistent patterns of scientific research, but they are counter-balanced by researchers’ attempts to engage problems and phenomena that fall between boundaries of established disciplines, thus requiring interdisciplinary research efforts and collaboration. Some scholars argue that interdisciplinary research has grown in recent decades at the expense of traditional disciplines. Interdisciplinarity also has an established position in a variety of current policy discourses. From research strategies of faculties and institutions to research funders’ policies of encouraging collaboration among disciplines, interdisciplinarity has been given a role in defining the conditions and quality of research, and as a key for solving complex societal problems.

This conference explores a gap between how interdisciplinarity is discussed and how it occurs in the mundane academic practices. The ideals and strive to interdisciplinarity often meet tensions deriving from both dynamics of academic community and the broader research environment. These tensions range from epistemological and methodological differences among researchers with various disciplinary backgrounds to discipline-based institutional settings and practices of research evaluations and academic recruitment. What are the things motivating researchers in conducting interdisciplinary research? What’s in it for them? How does interdisciplinarity work in everyday research relations and collaboration?

Besides paying attention to the gap between academic practices and the way we discuss interdisciplinarity, we want to arouse discussion on the disciplinary specific nature of the phenomenon. Rather than emphasizing the same goal of interdisciplinarity for all, we need critical thinking and understanding of interdisciplinary practices in different disciplines. While interdisciplinary approach is worthwhile to pursue in some fields, it may be more profitable for other disciplines to concentrate on disciplinary research.