Acknowledging complexity: Critically analyzing context to understand interdisciplinary research

Authors: Scott, Catherine1; Hofmeyer, Anne2

Source: Journal of Interprofessional Care, Volume 21, Number 5, October 2007 , pp. 491-501(11)

Publisher: Informa Healthcare

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It is timely to develop improved understandings about strengthening interdisciplinary contexts to guide effective and quality healthcare research; contexts in which health and social issues occur do not recognize disciplinary boundaries. Similar to the notion of "partnership", the terms multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary are in danger of becoming conceptually indistinct and thus of limited usefulness for researchers, practitioners and teams. In this paper, we review basic concepts related to cross-disciplinary relationships as well as common arguments for and against interdisciplinary research. We then extend this critique by adding considerations of the influence of context, specifically social and spatial influences on interdisciplinarity. In doing so, we advocate the need for research that explicitly acknowledges complexity and considers context to advance understanding of effective interdisciplinary research.

Keywords: Interdisciplinary; complexity; context; critical social analysis; knowledge integration

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Knowledge Into Action Department, Calgary Health Region & Community Health Sciences and Sociology, University of Calgary, Alberta 2: Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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