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Chapter 2 Complexity and mastery in shaping interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Perspectives and Practicalities

ISBN: 978-0-85724-371-3, eISBN: 978-0-85724-372-0

Publication date: 8 November 2010


Success in research – or ‘mastery’ as we call it – can lead to interdisciplinarity arising among the increasingly fragmented disciplines of science: researchers in molecular biology can be assisted by advances in the physics of atomic imaging, when they become aware of a development's potential and feel motivated to take advantage of it. The unpredictability of advances in scientific research makes the location and nature of interdisciplinarity largely unpredictable. This unpredictability means that organisational structures in which scientific research takes place – and in which our students are trained – are likely to lag behind interdisciplinary synergies developing in the laboratory. The lag time suggested by our model explains the challenges faced by leaders of interdisciplinary programmes in higher education. One can conclude that opportunities for interdisciplinarity in science are held back by discipline-bound institutions.


MacKinnon, P., Rifkin, W.D., Hine, D. and Barnard, R. (2010), "Chapter 2 Complexity and mastery in shaping interdisciplinarity", Davies, M., Devlin, M. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Perspectives and Practicalities (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 29-53.



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