ISSN: 1998 - 4162

JISR - Management and Social Sciences & Economics Journal Contents

Volume 12, Number 2, July 2014


No one can predict the issues that science and society will consider most pressing in the decades to come. But if we look at some diverse but high-priority issues of today such as: world hunger and political crisis, sustainable resources and development, homeland security and terrorism, nanotechnology and space explorations, mother and child health, imbalance of ecological system and biodiversity, all are interdependent in nature and affecting our societies collectively. By looking at these issues, it can easily be predicted that issues in future will be so complex as to require insights from multiple disciplines. Therefore, to understand these multifaceted and myriad issues and provide possible and viable solutions to them we need innovative research strategies. These strategies and methods will not just look into the problems from a single perspective, but should have the capacity to look into cross-cutting layers of different fields and must be interdisciplinary in nature to capture the holistic picture.

Interdisciplinary research is a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or field of research practice. Research is truly interdisciplinary when it is not just pasting two disciplines together to create one product but rather is an integration and synthesis of ideas and methods. Furthermore, on practical ground, an interdisciplinary research requires not just the expertise in both the fields to be merged and integrate rather it necessitates the understanding of both the experts into each other’s field of inquiry deep down from technical level to conceptual and theoretical levels. Researchers involved in conducting interdisciplinary research studies face grave and unprecedented challenges. Here three such challenges are elaborated to provide basic yard stick for a sincere initiative - understanding the complexity, exploiting the appropriate expertise, and befitting project management.

First and most important challenge to conduct an interdisciplinary research is to understand the complexity of the phenomenon in its context through both individual and collective lenses. Human society in its natural setting contends with enormously complex systems that are influenced by myriad forces. It is not possible to study one factor without exploring the other ones. And complete predictive or even descriptive understanding requires the appropriate use of multiple disciplines. Natural and human complexity often leads to surprises that require much thought and experimentation to unravel. Exploring the complexity of the situation often misdirect the subsequent steps of research and defeats the very purpose of conducting interdisciplinary research. Understanding, exploring, and analyzing the complexity of the problem often creates a hurdle for true integration.

Another challenge in conducting the interdisciplinary research successfully is the availability of expertise in the fields to co-integrate. Either experts of one domain having low or no familiarization and perceptiveness of another domain, or they tend to avoid unnecessary challenges. Often experts in their own fields live in a comfort zone and produce remarkable results. But working jointly and profoundly taking interest in a different field demands extra ordinary efforts and more prone to risk of failure. This factor deters the experts in different fields to experiment in an alien problem and jeopardize their reputation. Lack of interest, devotion to their narrow field of research, and engaging projects further leads to reduce the chances to do a collaborative research in a foreign realm.

Finally, a vital and decisive reason not to espouse an interdisciplinary research is the project management issues. Experts in different fields of interest and domain knowledge while get together for a collaborative research often faces petty project management issues like resource planning, funding, and conflicts. At the first place experts in their fields due to familiarization of argot and lingo face difficulty to communicate with each other that leads to failure of slackness in project and consequently affects the funding or results. In large diverse teams experts have a tendency to develop conflict of interests and steer the projects in the desired directions. Drawing conclusions on common ground which satisfy the co-opted fields and recognize the efforts of the experts participated in the project is a daunting task and contribute significantly to the success of the project. Apprehension of the funding agencies and donors of the project and lack of consensus of project stakeholders at different stages cause delays in achieving the set goals.

Interdisciplinary research although is a quite fascinating idea for the researchers and policy makers working at the highest level, translating this idea into reality and producing acceptable, productive, and economic solutions of the complex problems is a farfetched notion. Researchers are looking into the possibilities of joining hands in less complex problems, with sufficient interdisciplinary knowledge, and efficient project teams to discern the ingenious crossroads of science and society.

Dr. Muhammad Zaki Rashidi


August 25, 2015

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed in the journal are those of the authors and not necessarily reflect the policies or preferences of JISR-MSSE or SZABIST.