The Practice of Interdisciplinarity
Stephenson, Janet; Lawson, Rob; Carrington, Gerry; Barton, Barry; Thorsnes, Paul; Mirosa, Miranda
There is a rocky chasm between the promise of interdisciplinary research and successful interdisciplinary research practice. As a group of researchers from New Zealand, based in five different disciplines (consumer psychology, economics, sociology, law, engineering), we share an interest in the behaviour of energy consumers, but understand behaviour through very different lenses. Initially we were mutually baffled by our discipline-specific languages and diverse theoretical stances. Over a period of time, however, we developed ways of working together to realise the benefits of collaboration. In this paper we reflect on the differences between disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, and discuss the practices we have adopted that support interdisciplinarity. These include the importance of trust, focusing on a problem, being aware of limits, sharing a common intellectual framework, testing ideas across the disciplines, and practicing interdisciplinarity at every level of the research project. We suggest that not all people are comfortable with interdisciplinary work, and draw parallels with Kohlberg’s ‘stages of moral development’, in that interdisciplinarians need to be ‘post-conventional’ in the sense that they do not feel bound by the conventions of their own discipline and recognise the legitimacy and value of other perspectives and methods of inquiry.
Publisher: Common Ground Publishing
Published in: The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Science, volume 5, issue 7
Keywords: Interdisciplinary Research; Research Practice; Post-conventional; Peer Review; Energy Cultures
Research Type: Journal Article