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Interdisciplinarity: A Matter of Perspective

Date:28 February 2022
Author:Leslie Willis

Campus Fryslan is all about bringing different domains of expertise together and enhancing interdisciplinary research. Programs that reflect this very well are Data Science and Society, Governance and Law in Digital Society, Voice Technology (MSc), Sustainable Entrepreneurship (MSc) to name a few. But what exactly is interdisciplinarity? Why do we need it? And, what do we do with it?

Interdiscipli .. who?

Interdisciplinarity is the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity”. Think of it as combining two things that you wouldn’t think of as related in the first place. How about art and science. Could you think of ways to unite the both into one project? Let me give you a few ideas:

Technology and art: 
Nowadays, more and more artists use technology in their art as in digital paintings or for NFTs. The list goes on.

Economy and Biology and Sociology:
Vaccines - Pandemic -  a lot of different experts had to work together, interdisciplinarily, to make decisions. This affected the economy (who pays for tests and for vaccines? How do small businesses survive when they have to lock down?) as well as the health sectors (for obvious reasons) and sociological factors (think of care-work, kindergartens and schools that closed, dynamics in families).

Highly interdisciplinary in itself. Politicians must communicate with experts of different sectors to know about the pros and cons for the decisions they make.

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What is it good for?

Now that we know what interdisciplinarity is, why would we use it? What is it good for? Sometimes (and nowadays “sometimes” is continually changing to “often”), we must take more disciplines, hence more perspectives, into account to be able to solve a problem sustainably. I gave you some ideas above already. Let’s look at deforestation, for instance. This is a hot topic that concerns economical factors and biological factors and politics as well. A ‘typical’ economist will not know about or consider important ecological factors when making decisions, as long as these factors don’t contribute to profit maximization. I guess you see where this is going. The world we are living in is very complex. So are the factors contributing to wise decision making. Interdisciplinarity is not only good for looking at the greater picture, but unavoidable in the globalized world we live in today.

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The Best of both Worlds?

Can we think of interdisciplinarity as “the best of both worlds”, then? Kind of, yes. It is most of all the art of looking at the same situation, but raising different questions. More questions, than somebody looking at it from just the economical, or just the scientific point of view, would. Of course, this can make things very complex and difficult to find “the one perfect solution”. However, there is not really such a thing as “the one perfect solution” - but, there is “the closest to the one perfect solution” and we can achieve this by acting interdisciplinarily. It’s essential to think and work interdisciplinarily, especially in academic contexts. 

Interdisciplinarity gives you a broad skill set. It enhances your ability to think out of the box and expand your knowledge.

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To sum up..

You can always look at a certain topic from one perspective. However, it will usually concern various stakeholders (= people and institutional bodies that are concerned with it). This is why interdisciplinarity is important, why researchers must ask overarching questions. This is how open-mindedness can be sustained and meaningful decisions can be made.

About the author

Leslie Willis
Leslie Willis

I am Leslie, 23 years old and currently studying the MSC Voice Technology at Campus Fryslan. Before I studied in Germany which also is where I am from. I’m a language enthusiast and I love music and coffee ..and ginger beer!