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Concept: Interdisciplinarity


Interdisciplinary research is widely considered a hothouse for innovation, and the only plausible approach to complex problems such as climate change. One barrier to interdisciplinary research is the widespread perception that interdisciplinary projects are less likely to be funded than those with a narrower focus. However, this commonly held belief has been difficult to evaluate objectively, partly because of lack of a comparable, quantitative measure of degree of interdisciplinarity that can be applied to funding application data. Here we compare the degree to which research proposals span disparate fields by using a biodiversity metric that captures the relative representation of different fields (balance) and their degree of difference (disparity). The Australian Research Council’s Discovery Programme provides an ideal test case, because a single annual nationwide competitive grants scheme covers fundamental research in all disciplines, including arts, humanities and sciences. Using data on all 18,476 proposals submitted to the scheme over 5 consecutive years, including successful and unsuccessful applications, we show that the greater the degree of interdisciplinarity, the lower the probability of being funded. The negative impact of interdisciplinarity is significant even when number of collaborators, primary research field and type of institution are taken into account. This is the first broad-scale quantitative assessment of success rates of interdisciplinary research proposals. The interdisciplinary distance metric allows efficient evaluation of trends in research funding, and could be used to identify proposals that require assessment strategies appropriate to interdisciplinary research.

Concepts: Transdisciplinarity, Interdisciplinarity, Scientific method, Quantitative research, Research


In recent years there has been a wealth of literature arguing the need for empirical and interdisciplinary approaches to bioethics, based on the premise that an empirically informed ethical analysis is more grounded, contextually sensitive and therefore more relevant to clinical practice than an ‘abstract’ philosophical analysis. Bioethics has (arguably) always been an interdisciplinary field, and the rise of ‘empirical’ (bio)ethics need not be seen as an attempt to give a new name to the longstanding practice of interdisciplinary collaboration, but can perhaps best be understood as a substantive attempt to engage with the nature of that interdisciplinarity and to articulate the relationship between the many different disciplines (some of them empirical) that contribute to the field. It can also be described as an endeavour to explain how different disciplinary approaches can be integrated to effectively answer normative questions in bioethics, and fundamental to that endeavour is the need to think about how a robust methodology can be articulated that successfully marries apparently divergent epistemological and metaethical perspectives with method. This paper proposes ‘Reflexive Bioethics’ (RB) as a methodology for interdisciplinary and empirical bioethics, which utilizes a method of ‘Reflexive Balancing’ (RBL). RBL has been developed in response to criticisms of various forms of reflective equilibrium, and is built upon a pragmatic characterization of Bioethics and a ‘quasi-moral foundationalism’, which allows RBL to avoid some of the difficulties associated with RE and yet retain the flexible egalitarianism that makes it intuitively appealing to many.

Concepts: Interdisciplinary fields, Transdisciplinarity, Epistemology, Multidisciplinarity, Disciplinary, Interdisciplinarity, Scientific method


Interdisciplinary research is increasingly recognized as the solution to today’s challenging scientific and societal problems, but the relationship between interdisciplinary research and scientific impact is still unclear. This paper studies the association between the degree of interdisciplinarity and the number of citations at the paper level. Different from previous studies compositing various aspects of interdisciplinarity into a single indicator, we use factor analysis to uncover distinct dimensions of interdisciplinarity corresponding to variety, balance, and disparity. We estimate Poisson models with journal fixed effects and robust standard errors to analyze the divergent relationships between these three factors and citations. We find that long-term (13-year) citations (1) increase at an increasing rate with variety, (2) decrease with balance, and (3) increase at a decreasing rate with disparity. Furthermore, interdisciplinarity also affects the process of citation accumulation: (1) although variety and disparity have positive effects on long-term citations, they have negative effects on short-term (3-year) citations, and (2) although balance has a negative effect on long-term citations, its negative effect is insignificant in the short run. These findings have important implications for interdisciplinary research and science policy.

Concepts: Affect, Effect, Interdisciplinarity, Factor analysis


The prevalence of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) in adolescents and young adults has been increasing during the past decade. Despite this increase, documentation regarding treatment of these patients is just beginning to emerge. In addition, despite a call for a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach, no studies have examined the efficacy of such an approach to treatment. This paper describes a case study of a 19-year-old male with debilitating POTS seen at a tertiary clinic for evaluation and subsequent intensive interdisciplinary treatment. The treatment approach is described and outcomes are presented.

Concepts: Orthostatic intolerance, Cultural studies, Orthostatic hypotension, Multidisciplinarity, Case study, Evaluation methods, Interdisciplinarity, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome


As the global population ages, it is important that the professional care workforce is well prepared to support the needs of people with dementia. In Australia, the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) supports people with dementia and their carers through an interdisciplinary team approach. To provide DBMAS Behaviour Consultants with a tool to guide them in their professional development, this project aimed to develop a self-assessment tool to enable self-reflection on clinical competencies required for working in the service and identification of areas where further development would be required.

Concepts: Learning, Interdisciplinarity, Life expectancy, Alzheimer's disease, Interdisciplinary fields, Psychology, Management, Australia


Science hackathons can help academics, particularly those in the early stage of their careers, to build collaborations and write research proposals.

Concepts: Research and development, Capitol Records albums, Interdisciplinarity, Academia


Scholarly collaborations across disparate scientific disciplines are challenging. Collaborators are likely to have their offices in another building, attend different conferences, and publish in other venues; they might speak a different scientific language and value an alien scientific culture. This paper presents a detailed analysis of success and failure of interdisciplinary papers-as manifested in the citations they receive. For 9.2 million interdisciplinary research papers published between 2000 and 2012 we show that the majority (69.9%) of co-cited interdisciplinary pairs are “win-win” relationships, i.e., papers that cite them have higher citation impact and there are as few as 3.3% “lose-lose” relationships. Papers citing references from subdisciplines positioned far apart (in the conceptual space of the UCSD map of science) attract the highest relative citation counts. The findings support the assumption that interdisciplinary research is more successful and leads to results greater than the sum of its disciplinary parts.

Concepts: Citation, Reference, Disciplinary, Interdisciplinarity


A Family Health Team (FHT) is a multi-disciplinary primary healthcare model that may be an ideal setting to engage patients in physical activity. An environmental scan was conducted to determine the prevalence and characteristics of physical activity services offered by FHTs in Ontario. Of the 186 FHTs, 102 (55%) completed the survey. Almost 60% of responding FHTs offered a physical activity service; however, the availability, duration, size, and target population of the services varied depending on the individual FHT.

Concepts: Team, Interdisciplinarity, Illness, Health care provider, Health, Medicine, Primary care, Health care


Worldwide, thousands of children are acting in different roles in armed groups. Whereas human rights activism and humanitarian imperatives tend to emphasize the image of child soldiers as incapable victims of adults' abusive compulsion, this image does not fully correspond with prevailing pedagogical and jurisprudential discourses, nor does it represent all child soldiers' own perceptions of their role. Moreover, contemporary warfare is often marked by fuzzy distinctions between perpetrators and victims. This article deepens on the question how to conceptualize the victim-perpetrator imaginary about child soldiers, starting from three disciplines, children’s rights law, psychosocial approaches and transitional justice, and then proceeding into an interdisciplinary approach.

Concepts: Human rights abuses, Role, Interdisciplinarity, Child, Developmental psychology, Philosophy of law, Law, Human rights


The transformative power of the Internet on all aspects of daily life, including health care, has been widely recognized both in the scientific literature and in public discourse. Viewed through the various lenses of diverse academic disciplines, these transformations reveal opportunities realized, the promise of future advances, and even potential problems created by the penetration of the World Wide Web for both individuals and for society at large. Discussions about the clinical and health research implications of the widespread adoption of information technologies, including the Internet, have been subsumed under the disciplinary label of Medicine 2.0. More recently, however, multi-disciplinary research has emerged that is focused on the achievement and promise of the Web itself, as it relates to healthcare issues. In this paper, we explore and interrogate the contributions of the burgeoning field of Web Science in relation to health maintenance, health care, and health policy. From this, we introduce Health Web Science as a subdiscipline of Web Science, distinct from but overlapping with Medicine 2.0. This paper builds on the presentations and subsequent interdisciplinary dialogue that developed among Web-oriented investigators present at the 2012 Medicine 2.0 Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

Concepts: Interdisciplinarity, Tim Berners-Lee, Medicine, Web 2.0, Health, Health care, Internet, World Wide Web