Many would argue that astrobiology research is interdisciplinary. Is it? And what does 'interdisciplinary' actually mean? What about the education side of it? Is interdisciplinary education a real thing or bogus? Let's challenge some of the things that we take for granted regarding interdisciplinarity. I am hoping to have a discussion on interdisciplinarity in astrobiology research and education using Rosenfield's taxonomy. I do not know the answers to the questions below but I am sure we will have a great time discussing them on S.A.G.A.N. Salon.

-Where does the current astrobiology research operate: multi-, inter-, or transdisciplinary?
-Where it should be?
-How can we train the next generation of researchers who want to conduct interdisciplinary research?
-Does interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs have a value?
-What are the barriers to and facilitators of interdisciplinary research?

Rosenfield's taxonomy (1992):
Unidisciplinarity: Researcher(s) are from a single discipline, may work together.
Multidisciplinarity: Researchers are from different disciplines and they work independently or sequentially. Each has own disciplinary perspective.
Interdisciplinarity: Researchers are from different disciplines and they work jointly. Each stays anchored in own field but results demonstrate some integration of diverse disciplines.
Transdisciplinarity: Researchers are from different disciplines and they work jointly to create a shared conceptual framework. This moves beyond discipline-specific theories, concepts, and approaches.

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It seems that Rosenfield's taxonomy is the ideal "roadmap" for astrobiology research. Transdisciplinarity should be the educational goal, but I don't think the community is there yet. Interdisciplinarity perhaps best characterizes the current state of astrobiology research. Not to be biased, but I think the UW model really pushes its students from multi- to trans-.

I'm looking forward to the discussion!

I do not think it will happen in our lifetime -transdisciplinarity as the educational goal. However, I hope that we can come up with a model that can broaden students' and researchers' intellectual peripheral vision -that is the understanding and knowledge of how other disciplines could be helpful to one's research (and vice versa). For instance, I paleobiologist told me, "if I don’t know anything about microbiology, then I'm not in a position to ask what a new phylogeny might do for my understanding of fossils." And I guess UW model does this.

Anyway, I am very excited about the discussion.



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