Topic 3 Principles of Interdisciplinary Approach to Solving System Problems

  • Interdisciplinarity is a type of cooperation in which experts from different disciplines work towards common goal. It means the fact of involving two or more different subjects or areas of knowledge, therefore it creates something new and unique.
  • One of the examples of interdisciplinarity is traffic planning, which means that the involvement of several stakeholders from different scientific disciplines, such as transport, construction and architecture is required, but also human psychology.
  • Interdisciplinarity is used to solve complex problems – a subject or problem is complex when it has multiple parts that require study by different disciplines. An interdisciplinary approach critically analyzes the relevant disciplinary insights and attempts to produce a more comprehensive understanding or propose a holistic solution.
  • Some general observations about the interdisciplinary approach are:
    • a grounding in disciplines is a prerequisite to interdisciplinarity
    • continuous recognition of a common goal, regular communication, consultation, exchange of data, and provisional conclusions between the team members and a strong commitment to teamwork are central to the interdisciplinary process
    • The quality of interdisciplinary research depends on attention to preparation, quality of disciplinary inputs, process of interaction and quality of the synthesis. The core principles of interdisciplinarity can be called the three „C’s”: Collaboration, Cooperation and Communication

Source: https://aries.integratedmodelling.org/interdisciplinarity-some-potential-pitfalls-on-the-route-to-success/ (November 2021)

  • Interdisciplinarity is neither a subject matter nor a body of content. It is a process for achieving an integrative synthesis, a process that usually begins with a problem, question, topic or issue. Individuals must work to overcome problems created by differences in disciplinary language and world view. The following „road map” can be used when conducting interdisciplinary research:
    • define the problem or state the research question
    • justify using and interdisciplinary approach
    • identify relevant disciplines
    • conduct a literature search
    • critically analyze the disciplinary insights into the problem and locate their sources of conflict
    • refect on how the interdisciplinary process has enlarged your understanding of the problem
  • Related problem solving methods are:
    • systems thinking – focuses on how the thing being studied interacts with the other constituents of the system – a set of elements that interact to produce behaviour – of which it is a part. That means that instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the system being studied, systems thinking works by expanding its view to take into account larger and larger numbers of interactions as an issue is being studied.
    • design thinking – an approach to problem solving that originated in industrial product design but which has been adapted into a more general process that may be applied in a variety of complex situations. It emphasizes beginning with a deep understanding of the needs of the people whom the solution is intended to help, moving on to a creative phase of developing ideas about how to address the problem.
  • The interdisciplinary expert working with a team of specialists is in a position to recognize both the strengths and limitations of the project and of team members’ knowledge
  • Interdisciplinary research and problem solving is conducted in a collaborative team with with other academic experts or professionals. The biggest challenge is to make each members’ distinctive knowledge and insights available to the whole team in a constructive and useful way, while preventing their disciplinary commitments from becoming barriers to progress
  • The goal is to promote integrative learning about the problem. The team must see itself as engaged in an ongoing process of integrative learning, the purpose of which is to find a solution to the problem.