(Inter/Multi) Disciplinary identities and knowledge production

Date: Friday 19 June 2009
Time: 13.00-15.00
Location: H4-02


-    Prof. Dr. Johan Heilbron (EUR/ESSB)
-    Prof. Dr. Peter van den Besselaar (Rathenau Institute, VU)


According to some influential authors (Gibbons, Nowotny, Scott, et al) ‘disciplines’ have become obsolete units for the production of knowledge. Knowledge is nowadays created in "trans-disciplinary" contexts. But how does interdisciplinary knowledge production differ from disciplinary knowledge production?

On the basis of, among others, bibliometric data, Johan Heilbron will argue that the idea of "trans-disciplinary" contexts replacing disciplines is not very realistic. Disciplines are still very relevant units but the meaning of 'disciplinarity' varies strongly between disciplines. Johan Heilbron’s criticism of the current studies of scientific fields is that they pay insufficient attention to the structural conditions under which local micro-processes occur.

Peter van den Besselaar defines disciplinarity in terms of the network structure of communication in scholarly journals. Using this as frame of reference, he will compare Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary communication networks with disciplinary networks. Early multi/interdisciplinary networks clearly differ from disciplinary networks. Two possible developments will be shown. In some cases, the multi/interdisciplinary network over time develops into a disciplinary structure. In other cases, this does not take place and the multi/interdisciplinary network disappears. If this is a correct analysis, multi/interdisciplinary networks are a (temporary) indication that the disciplinary landscape is changing.

Attendance and participation to the debate open to anyone interested.