Successful Interdisciplinary Collaborations

Conducted in collaboration with Sociologist Michele Lamont (lead PI), our study of success in interdisciplinary collaboration examines the collaborative practices unfolding in research networks at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Santa Fe Institute and the MacArthur Foundation. This work integrates sociology of knowledge, epistemology, and cognitive science to shed light on the "shared cognitive-emotional-intractional platforms" that enable the successful integration of disciplinary perspectives in research innovation.

Given the growing centrality of interdisciplinarity to scientific research, gaining a better understanding of successful interdisciplinary collaborations has become imperative. Drawing on extensive case studies of nine research networks in the social, natural, and computational sciences, this study enabled us to propose a construct that captures the multidimensional character of such collaborations, the notion of a shared cognitive-emotional-interactional (SCEI) platform. We demonstrate its value as an integrative lens to examine markers of and conditions for successful interdisciplinary collaborations as defined by researchers involved in these groups. We show that: 1) markers and conditions embody three different dimensions: cognitive, emotional and interactional; 2) these dimensions are present in all networks, albeit to different degrees; 3) the dimensions are intertwined and mutually constitutive; and 4) they operate in conjunction with institutional conditions created by funders. We conclude by discussing the added value of SCEI platforms in relation to currently available frameworks for successful interdisciplinary work.

This study was supported by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.