Effective interdiscipline: a research challenge

Tuesday, 23 March, 2021 | NEWS

The beginning of 2021 presented several research challenges for the Research Center in Social Complexity (CICS) and the Doctorate in Social Complexity Sciences (DCCS) belonging to the Faculty of Government of the Universidad del Desarrollo. The most important of them is to be faced with the continuity of a pandemic scenario that has been dragging on for several months and that caused a reorganization of academic activities and an approach to the way of doing research. In this line, the concept of “effective interdiscipline” acquires greater meaning and its applicability is one of the key aspects of the work to be developed, both face-to-face and at a distance.

Thus, the month of research at the DCCS CICS had a different but effective structure, with limited and “surgical” actions, in the words of the director of the PhD, Ph.D. Jorge Fábrega. The activity “We help you with your problem”, sought to support students in aspects that were difficult or with difficulties, and groups were formed with professors who could be the most appropriate for academic support. In the same way, parallel meetings were held and the importance of doing reproducible research was seen, focusing on data analysis, as occurred with the workshop “Introduction to RMarkdown”, taught by Eduardo Méndez, a student of the 2017 generation. Emphasis was also placed on science communication, with a workshop on scientific dissemination by researcher Sebastián Escobar and journalist Paz Santander, both from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

The production of interdisciplinary research that also has an impact was the central theme of the talk “Effective Interdiscipline”, a closing conversation that brought together leading professionals: Diego Pardow, lawyer, Ph.D. in Law, specialist in Economics of Law, Executive President of Espacio Público; Vladimir López, Doctor, Ph.D. in Sciences, specialist in Neurophysiology, member of the Interdisciplinary Center of Neuroscience UC; and Carlos Rodríguez, Ph.D. in Economics and Director of the CICS. The meeting had as its axis the transmission of experiences from their own professional paths, in order to exemplify the way of doing interdiscipline from a more concrete perspective.

Interdisciplinary work and teamwork

Diego Pardow
For Diego Pardow, interdisciplinary work is part of the know-how of Espacio Público, whose assembly is made up of lawyers, scientists, climatologists, writers, economists, psychologists, health officials, architects, climate change experts, among others. Pardow recalls that the first topics addressed were security, police and drug trafficking, being this “a first opening towards more qualitative and generalist areas of social sciences in the humanities”. And he continues, “our approach to interdisciplinarity was in a work we did with Pensions, when the No + AFP project was emerging. It began as an analysis of public policies, but the team replicated the technical polarization of the audience”.

In this scenario, the incorporation of professionals with different views helped to untangle the differences and a consensus was reached, which was later seen in the reports. “So, I see the idea of interdisciplinarity in the analysis of public policies as follows: a group of people who are relatively specialists invite someone who is professionally different in terms of their basic training or professional background; interdisciplinarity does not start from the beginning, but rather they join along the way. What they contribute is that they are able to look at things from the outside and lower the tension in conflicts that seem very important for the people involved in them. So, with the limitations of not having been in the initial process, they are able to look at things from outside the box,” he concludes.

Vladimir Lopez
Vladimir López, for his part, says that while he was studying medicine in the nineties, the director of one of the courses said “in a multilingual environment, where everyone spoke their own language, someone who was bilingual or trilingual was a particular case that was very relevant. Someone who is fluent in two areas, even if not the best, is an essential contribution to promote interdisciplinary research. Already in those years, he was talking about encouraging researchers to have an important command of another language, beyond their own.

In his 25 years of experience, the researcher assures that he has seen “how disciplinary boundaries have been erased and how initial basic training with an interdisciplinary spirit is becoming more and more frequent”. His conclusions are that “interdisciplinarity from initial training is important, as well as training and education in other languages from early in life. Second, it is important to agree on the question and the phenomenon to be studied and then to reconcile the methods, because if we start with methodological differences, we will probably not be able to make a true interdisciplinary approach. Thirdly, it is important to actively promote meeting places, to see how the questions that move me are seen in other areas of knowledge”.

Carlos Rodríguez
Carlos Rodriguez confesses that he has “worked with various groups of researchers and I started to do some work to be able to categorize”. Throughout his career, he has worked with multiple researchers from different disciplines and, on some occasions, he understood that it is not just a matter of joining different professionals in a work team. Thus, Rodriguez clarifies the different modalities of research: “In multidiscipline, different disciplinary approaches are compiled, where tolerance to the relevance of alternative approaches is required. Synergy is that it enhances the dialogue between disciplines; in interdiscipline, different disciplinary approaches are combined in an academic work and an investment in a common language is required. Synergy is the multidimensional understanding of the phenomenon; and transdiscipline integrates disciplinary approaches, with the requirement of an integrated approach. And synergy goes into the multidimensional and unified understanding of the phenomenon”.

The researcher assures that interdiscipline has a learning time and a common language, where “the narrative is very important, which has to do not only with the communication of science, but also with the structure of the work”, he concludes.