IISER Pune
INDIAN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE EDUCATION AND RESEARCH (IISER) PUNE
where tomorrow’s science begins today
An Autonomous Institution, Ministry of Education, Govt. of India
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CIS Knowledge 

Overarching Questions

In both education and research, CIS pursues integration by formulating and addressing overarching questions that dissolve disciplinary boundaries and facilitate dialogues and synergy across research programs spanning across the whole range of academia. For example,
  • Going beyond the diverse studies of cognition under philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, psychiatry, chimpanzee cognition, fly cognition, and immune cells, we ask how organisms represent information about the world, mentally and/or physically, and how these representations are shaped by a combination of their internal properties and properties of the world.
  • Going beyond the studies of the grammar of languages, the grammar of crystals, the grammar of proteins, and the grammar of dance forms, we investigate the general and specific architecture of grammars across domains.
  • Going beyond the disparate studies of the past under the “history”: of nations, of societies, of languages, of life forms, of the earth, and of the universe, we investigate the past along the physical, biological and socio-cultural dimensions.
  • Going beyond the studies of human societies, animal societies, “societies of the brain,” and “societies of molecules and atoms,” we study the nature of social organization across domains.

Intradisciplinary Integration TOP | BACK

Intradisciplinary integration unifies a body of individual observations (“data points”) into an observational generalization (correlation, observational law, pattern) and unifies such observational generalizations by constructing theories that explain them. This is the standard practice in the sciences.

The first level integration unifies individual observations. Galileo’s law of the simple pendulum that correlates the length of the pendulum with its period, Boyle’s law that correlates the pressure and volume of a body of gas, and the observed pattern of retrograde motion noticed by ancient Babylonians are examples in which a number of individual observations are integrated in terms of a correlation or an observational law. Such integration is common in statistical and experimental inquiry.

The next level of integration unifies generalizations. The heliocentric theory of the solar system integrates the pattern of retrograde motion with a number of other observational generalizations on celestial objects, and Newton’s theory of gravity and motion integrates them further with Galileo’s observational generalizations. The theory of electromagnetism integrates theories of light, magnetism and electricity; each of them integrates the observational generalizations in its own domain.

Interdisciplinary Integration TOP | BACK

Interdisciplinary integration is typically found in ‘hyphenated’ fields like physical chemistry, bio-psychology, socio-biology, bio-engineering, bio-linguistics, neuro-linguistics, and socio-linguistics. These enterprises provide the interface between two related disciplines. We may think of this as welding two disciplines together, or, to use a different metaphor, creating a workspace at the boundary between two disciplines. The burgeoning of such interface fields in the recent decades clearly signals the need for cooperatively crossing disciplinary borders and counteracting fragmentation in academia. CIS actively seeks interfaces between fields that are not yet in conversation.

Multidisciplinary Integration TOP | BACK

In contrast to the above types of connecting and unifying, multidisciplinary integration brings together many different disciplines to engage with a single question or problem. The answer to the question, “What causes a rubber ball to bounce up when it is dropped from a height and hits the ground?” is internal to physics; the answer to the question, “What makes cells commit suicide?” (apoptosis) is internal to biology. In contrast, the question, “What makes human beings commit suicide?” calls for the integration of contributions at least from genetics, neuroscience, psychology, and sociology. Hence, a comprehensive theory of suicide calls for multidisciplinary integration. Likewise, a theory of human war that answers the question, “Why do human groups repeatedly engage in war, causing death and suffering to others and to themselves, even though they judge causing death and suffering to be immoral, and do not want death or suffering for themselves?” calls for a multidisciplinary integration of contributions from genetics, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, politics, economics, and ethics.

Trans-disciplinary Integration TOP | BACK

While interdisciplinary studies investigate the interface questions between two disciplines, and multidisciplinary studies apply the knowledge from many disciplines to bring to bear on a single question or problem, trans-disciplinary integration moves up from the levels of disciplines, to concepts and modes of inquiry whose scope extends beyond disciplinary boundaries. Such concepts and strategies manifest themselves in many disciplines but are not specific to any discipline.

Trans-disciplinary integration involves two strands, namely, concepts of knowledge and inquiry and modes of inquiry. Examples of trans-disciplinary concepts of knowledge include system, structure, function, organization, change history, development, and evolution. Our academic inquiry includes both the methodology and epistemology, covering critical thinking and justification. Statistical inquiry, experimental inquiry, mathematical inquiry, scientific theory construction, philosophical theory construction, aesthetic inquiry, and religious inquiry, are some of the broad modes of academic inquiry.

For us trans-disciplinarity is a thread composed by the strands of mathematics and philosophy, running through and tying together research and education across diverse academic fields. We also picture it as the foundations on which research and education are built; the infrastructure that allows researchers and students to move smoothly from one field to another, and transport ideas and information across fields; and as the lingua franca that allows researchers and students to communicate across disciplinary boundaries.

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