“…the disciplines are the place where we begin, but not where we end.” This quote from Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies by Allen F. Repko captures the essence of where interdisciplinary study comes from. The disciplines, where we find wealths of specific knowledge and, on occasion, narrow-minded specialists, are the very building blocks of interdisciplinary studies.
Without the disciplines, interdisciplinarity would have nothing to build on, nothing to incorporate or weave together in order to find solutions to world problems. If it ever seems as though the disciplines are scorned, the only thing we deem negative is their lack of integration with other disciplines. Even when grouping together to attempt solving a problem as a team, an interdisciplinary attempt can end up being multidisciplinary, where insights can come from two or more disciplines, but lack integration.
Our society is only starting to get the ball rolling on interdisciplinary communication.We know from many of history’s examples that when particular disciplines rule over a single issue, myriad unforeseen consequences may result. For example, Repko references the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers that killed the salmon fishery industry in that region. The architects and accountants orchestrating the building of the dams could have considered the environmental impact, but it wasn’t their specialty, so they didn’t have the insight on potential impacts than an environmental scientist would have had.
In the real world, interdisciplinarity is just now starting to enter the discussion. A recent article about Minneapolis Psychiatry attests to the fact that “Now children’s mental health care is interdisciplinary.” The author, Gail Rosenblum, then lists the psychologists, school social workers, case managers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and nurses who are present in developing and preserving a child’s mental well-being.
The medical field is most likely one of the most specialized fields in the world, even though it seems the human body and its complex systems would be the number one use for interdisciplinary study. This concerns me because it is my ultimate goal to become a dermatologist. Considering this, I already know that nutrition, age, and mental state all contribute to the health of one’s skin, and I would love to be able to study these interactions with other specialists outside my discipline one day. Already we see much collaboration in medicine between researchers and doctors, but how much of it is multidisciplinary, rather than interdisciplinary as it should be?
We see the roots of interdisciplinarity beginning to show in society; now we need it to grow and show its potential. Much like the fledgling leaf in the photo above, I believe interdisciplinarity will grow out of its vast supply of disciplines and learn from history how to create a new methodology of evaluating and solving problems.
Repko, Allen F., Rick Szostak, and Michelle Phillips Buchberger. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. 2014. Print.
Photo by Sharon Mollerus
Psychiatry Article by Gail Rosenblum