Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 20 (4), 2007 – interesting articles

[German title: Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 20 (4), 2007 – interessante Artikel]

Specifying the type of interdisciplinarity in the NSF’s NBIC scenario 313 – 328
Jan C. Schmidt

Abstract: Post-industrial and late-modern knowledge societies demand interdisciplinarity in order to facilitate knowledge production. ‘Interdisciplinarity’ is one of the most popular catchwords used in present-day knowledge politics. This paper aims to clarify the various meanings of interdisciplinarity in order to distinguish different kinds of knowledge politics. The objective is to show which specific type of interdisciplinarity is involved in the NSF’s scenario on converging technologies – one of the most prominent kinds of knowledge politics. I argue that the NSF’s knowledge politics is based on what I call ‘techno-object interdisciplinarity’. This type of interdisciplinarity will be explicated and contrasted with the research program of the European Commission on converging technologies (CTEKS initiative). I will show that the main difference between the two kinds of knowledge politics about converging technologies the focus on object interdisciplinarity on the one hand and problem-oriented interdisciplinarity on the other. I will argue in favor of an explicit normative discourse and conclude that a critical reflection on, and revision of goals and purposes should guide knowledge politics towards our common future.

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STRATEGIES FOR KNOWLEDGE ACQUISITION IN BIONANOTECHNOLOGY Why are interdisciplinary practices less widespread than expected? 395 – 412
Ismael Rafols
Abstract: Discourses on convergent technologies claim that fields such as bionanotechnology are interdisciplinary and, therefore, require specific organizational forms, such as laboratories with researchers from many different disciplinary backgrounds. However, empirical investigations challenge the intrinsic interdisciplinarity of these emergent fields, and some analysts criticize the discourses as prescriptive. In order to investigate actual laboratory practices in bionanoscience, this article explores the dynamics of knowledge integration and the knowledge acquisition strategies of 10 research projects in two research specialities, namely biomolecular motors and lab-on-a-chip. The research shows that knowledge integration is, in fact, very asymmetrical: typically, a project will use materials and techniques from various disciplines at a standard level of know-how, but focus its research effort on the unique expertise of the home laboratory. Furthermore, projects use various strategies to acquire knowledge: interdisciplinary practices involving deep collaborations and exchanges between distinct disciplines at either the personal or institutional level are only one strategy to acquire knowledge and, indeed, not the most common. The majority of projects combine different strategies, including service collaboration, limited recruitment and in-house learning. These observations can be explained by a trade-off between the benefits of cognitive diversity set against the costs of team cohesion and learning.

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