Thursday, February 13, 2014

Weingart 2000 - Interdisciplinarity: The Paradoxical Discourse

Research Question and Framework
Despite various discourses that both claim and privilege interdisciplinary work, Weingart notes that scientists are becoming increasingly specialized over time. He identifies this paradox as central to an understanding of interdisciplinarity, its history, and how the term is invoked today.

Discussion Questions

  1. Weingart discusses several metaphors around which interdisciplinarity discourses are structured, most notably the use of geographical or geopolitical concepts. Apart from those already discussed in class, what other metaphors have you noticed in the readings thus far? Are metaphors of discourse unified under a broader theme or themes?
  2. Will rhetoric and reality always be contradictory (paradoxical) in the research university? Should members of research universities be actively identifying and rectifying contradictions between discourse and structure? If so, whose ‘job’ is it?
  3. How might new structures of academic research and administration address the paradox described by Weingart?
  4. How does the internal scientific paradox of originality vs. modesty relate to the discourse on interdisciplinarity (according to Weingart)? Is this paradox universal? Would this paradox disappear if universities were successfully restructured in favor of interdisciplinary research centers?
  5. “Interdisciplinarity may best be described as a result of opportunism in knowledge production” (39). How is this analysis reflected in histories of interdisciplinarity?
  6. Weingart proposes that the discourse on interdisciplinarity has developed from a past desire for scientific unity. Without the discovery of a single, universal (physics based) equation to explain the connection between the sciences, interdisciplinarity as an idea (if not practice) allows disparate (and increasingly specialized) disciplines to feel connected. Is the paradox so neatly explained when non-scientific disciplines are considered? Does interdisciplinarity belong to ‘big science’?

(To save the class from too much blog reading, I've decided to remove the longer summary and only post my discussion questions for this article. I'm happy to post or distribute the summary if desired (or required!) -H).

1 comment:

Heather said...

Is the assumption underlying this inflammatory study (published in an interdiscipinary journal) related to Weingart's paradox? Do researchers not trust that colleagues in other discplines are as intelligent as members of their own?

Dutton and Lynn (2014). Intelligence and Religious and Political Differences Among Members of the U.S. Academic Elite:

(Discussion and critiques can be found on Inside Higher Ed at: