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Jobst Conrad “Limitations to Interdisciplinarity …”

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Conrad, Jobst 2002. Limitations to Interdisciplinarity in Problem Oriented Social Science Research. – The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies vol. 1, no. 1. kättesaadav: http://www.journal-tes.dk/vol%201%20no%201/problem%20oriented%20conrad.pdf

Practical (social) problems rarely are in accordance with disciplinary boundaries. Therefore scientific knowledge, if superior at all, has to be taken from different fields and combined. So open questions have to be investigated in a problem oriented manner, when external, non-theoretical purposes tend to dominate. Problem oriented research, as opposed to basic research, is less interested in gaining new general scientific findings, but more concerned with the utilization of general knowledge for practical (social) problems which are not structured according to disciplinary categories and limitations. This implies inherent uncertainties and the necessity of (problem oriented) interlinkage of disciplinary knowledge. (3)

Problem oriented research differs from applied research. The latter is oriented towards the specification and application of available scientific knowledge (analytical models, conceptual schemes, techniques, instruments) for relatively clearly specified purposes. In contrast problem oriented research must, in principle, deal with uncertainties related to prognosis, complexity and contingency in order to legitimize decisions which have no certain foundations, but typically cannot wait until basic questions of a scientific field have been solved. (3)

Interdisciplinarity may well be considered a valuable ideal of integrating (theoretical) concepts and methods in a common framework, but rarely a realistic aim in terms of developing a new common theory. Perhaps a common new context is all that can be hoped for. Typically, this would be at the level of system building within an integrated (and reflexive) theory. (4)

Since problem oriented research is almost by definition not oriented towards theory building, it can hardly involve interdisciplinarity. Thus, corresponding empirical analysis of problem oriented research should evaluate how far it satisfied the various criteria of competent multidisciplinary scientific cooperation indicated above but not its genuine interdisciplinarity. (5)

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