‘Science’- of value to hazard & disaster challenges; an exposé on interdisciplinary research

Edwards, E and Johnson, R.M (2016) ‘Science’- of value to hazard & disaster challenges; an exposé on interdisciplinary research. In: Environmental Humanities: Doing Interdisciplinarity with Depth: A Public Forum, 15 - 16 December 2016, Bath Spa University, Corsham, UK.


In the Indian Himalaya, ongoing, multi-disciplinary, tri-lateral (Canada, India, UK), participatory (light) research is exploring interconnected questions of mountain system process-hazard dynamics, community heritage-vulnerability- resilience conditions, and rapid development implications (e.g. HEP) in the context of international sustainable development and disaster risk reduction policy accords, in order to fashion a more sustainable future. Pursuing this hybridisation of themes has required large shifts across traditional intra/inter subject boundaries, and so many lessons have already been learned. This approach has without doubt been hugely beneficial in delivering an enhanced level of knowledge involving a range of non-academic organisations and communities speaking their local languages. Here we draw upon these research experiences, making the case that physical sciences are very much part of the effort to seek better understanding of and futures for the world, where a holistic understanding has to draw upon the in-depth approaches and outcomes of a range of disciplines. We seek to show the benefits of this approach to date, but equally to generate debate around a number of contentions; a challenge we should embrace together: (1) Current thinking suggests that Interdisciplinarity has great potential to provide something greater than the sum of its parts. We suggest that this needs to be a genuine meeting of minds and a willingness to work together on the part of all the players. Hence we ask ‘interdisciplinarity for whom and using who’s methods?’ (2) Is this interdisciplinary endeavour merely following an in-vogue paradigm and being used as a vehicle of power for some parts of the interdisciplinary whole? Indeed disciplinarity seems to be negatively cast, being touted as a dirty word by some. But let’s not forget if we don’t develop discipline based knowledge, with parity, then we fail to populate cross-disciplinary endeavours with an improving knowledge and technique baseline, this will in due course stifle the progress of interdisciplinarity. Hence lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater! (3) Employers delivering technical services do still seek depth of disciplinary knowledge, so we need to create degree programmes that deliver societally relevant depth and breadth- this calls for a mix of the old and the new, not just radicalism! (4) The language and approach of interdisciplinarity to date generates genuine discomfort in the scientific community- this we cannot ignore; together, we need to co-produce a better model of interdisciplinarity that fully embraces all of the disciplines represented in any project partnership. These are not mindlessly provocative, anachronistic denials of the world; but instead genuinely open reflections of earth scientists/ geographers who do work in an already diverse discipline and more so across boundaries. We all have to talk, in common tongue, seeking to understand the array of contributions that can be brought into the mix, otherwise interdisciplinarity will develop within intrinsic bias/ reduced capacity and therefore fall short in optimising pathways to impact.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: School of Sciences
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2017 10:10
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:45
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/9045
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)