The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity

The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity

The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity

The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity


Taking stock of interdisciplinarity as it nears its century mark, the Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity constitutes a major new reference work on the topic of interdisciplinarity, a concept of growing academic and societal importance. Interdisciplinarity is fast becoming as important outside academia as within. Academics, policy makers, and the general public are seeking methods and approaches to help organize and integrate the vast amounts of knowledge being produced, both within research and at all levels of education. The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity provides a synoptic overview of the current state of interdisciplinary research, education, administration and management, and problem solving-knowledge that spans the disciplines and interdisciplinary fields, and crosses the space between the academic community and society at large. Its 37 chapters and 14 case studies provide a snapshot of the state of knowledge integration as interdisciplinarity approaches its century mark. This groundbreaking text offers by far the most broad-based account of inter- and transdisciplinarity to date. Its original essays bring together many of the globe's leading thinkers on interdisciplinary research, education, and the institutional aspects of interdisciplinarity, as well as extended reflections on how knowledge is integrated into societal needs.


The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity (HOI) has been nearly 10 years in the making. By way of preface, it is useful to tell part of this history.

While the editors of this volume have been involved in interdisciplinary research—and research into interdisciplinarity—for decades, our active collaboration dates from 2001. During the 2001–02 academic year Frodeman served as the Hennebach Visiting Professor in the Humanities at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), where Mitcham was (and remains) a professor within the Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies. Their common interests in interdisciplinarity led to the creation of a project entitled ‘New Directions in the Earth Sciences and the Humanities’, launched with seed money from csm. Soon thereafter, familiarity with her work led to an invitation to Klein to join these early efforts. Together with hoi advisory board member Nancy Tuana, in 2002 New Directions went live with the stated goal of conducting ‘experiments in interdisciplinarity’.

New Directions began by issuing a request for interdisciplinary teams to propose projects at the intersection of the earth sciences and the humanities. Projects were to be focused on environmental questions relating to the theme of water. After receiving 31 proposals, six were chosen for funding of $10,000 each, contingent on the raising of a 1:1 match. Over the next few years New Directions attracted several hundred thousand dollars of funding from a number of entities—most prominently the National Science Foundation (NSF), but also the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), and two universities, the Columbia University Earth Institute and the Pennsylvania State University Rock Ethics Institute.

The six teams also agreed to meet regularly to exchange insights arising from their projects. the first workshop was held at Biosphere 2 near Tucson, Arizona in the spring of 2002, at the site of a failed idealistic interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary experiment—that is, Biosphere 2. the lessons recounted there highlighted the need for some type of summary account of interdisciplinary research. a second workshop took place at csm in the fall of 2002. New Directions continued its case-based approach to interdisciplinarity by including a field trip to the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility. This meeting also led to the 2003 publication of a special issue of the csm Quarterly collecting papers on the theory and practices in interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity, and more.

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