Multidisciplinary Research

Manila Bulletin, November 11, 2010 | Go to article overview

Multidisciplinary Research


MANILA, Philippines - In many Philippine universities, various "schools" or "faculties" are islands unto themselves having little interest in what is happening in other schools or faculties in the same educational institution. This "silo" mentality can be especially harmful to the academic community in the area of research, in which every university worthy of its name has to excel. There are numerous problems of Philippine society that cannot be diagnosed exclusively from the vantage point of one discipline alone, whether it be political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, etc. A multidisciplinary approach is essential and, therefore, would require the cooperation among practitioners of the various sciences.I was glad to receive a recent issue of Colloquy, the alumni quarterly of the Graduate School of Arts and Science of my alma mater, Harvard University. In the Summer, 2010, issue of this publication, Dean of the GSAS Allan Brandt wrote about the great value of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research in an excellent university like Harvard. He started by quoting Harvard's parlance, "every tub on its own bottom" which stands as shorthand for the proud independence of the ten faculties of Harvard and its other institutional units-and the distinctive cultures that flourish within each. I remember that during my studies at Harvard in the early 1960s, the various faculties generally did not talk to one another. Economists talked only to economists. In fact, I distinctively remember that there was some kind of animosity between the Harvard Business School (considered the hotbed of conservatism) and the Economics Department of the GSAS (at that time considered too leftist by the HBS community). There was the reference to the HBS as being at the "right" side of the Charles River and the economists being at the "left" side of the river.Through the years, there has been much more communication and interaction so that today, thanks to the efforts of professors like Michael Porter, there is a joint degree in Business Economics between the two institutions. There is a lot more interdisciplinary research among professors of economics and business. The same evolution has happened among the medical, law, architecture, sciences, engineering, and other faculties. As Dean Brandt wrote: "Cross-disciplinary collaboration is everywhere at the Graduate School, no more vividly portrayed than in our 16 interfaculty PhD programs, which GSAS administers with other Harvard faculties. These include programs in the biomedical sciences (in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine); in architecture, landscape, and urban planning (with the Graduate School of Design); in health policy (with the schools of government, law, business, public health, and medicine); and in political economy and government, public policy, and social policy (with the Kennedy School).Thanks to the origins of the University of Asia and the Pacific, which started in 1967 as the Center for Research and Communication (CRC), research is very much part of the culture of this academic institution in Pasig. The teaching load of the full-time faculty members is always limited so that they can find time to do research, which is part of their term of reference with their respective schools or faculties. …

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