Major issues in society - developing alternate sources of energy and a sustainable environment, improving health, and minimizing the effects of climate change require a collective effort by different disciplines working in interdisciplinary groups. Indeed, the boundaries between the different disciplines are becoming increasingly blurred. Society’s responses to major social challenges must be informed by an improved understanding of human perceptions, responses, and of the economic and social impacts of the physical, and biological processes to promote social wellbeing. A comprehensive understanding of the main social challenges requires the collaboration of physical scientists, social scientists, humanities scholars and engineers, and will be highly interdisciplinary. For example climate systems are highly variable, changing in hours, days or years. The need to create a new generation of students who combine a rigorous disciplinary depth with the ability to reach out to other disciplines and work in interdisciplinary teams is more urgent. Because these skills cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries, there is increasing support from government and business for the interdisciplinary programs that focus on identifiable long-term problems in the economy, society, and government, as opposed to department-based programs that focus on academically defined disciplinary paradigms. Interdisciplinary research preparation and education are central to future competitiveness, because knowledge creation and innovation frequently occur at the interface of disciplines. Interdisciplinary programs help to ensure better educational programs, which give students better ability to work in a problem-oriented way and at the same time the ability to think across fields and interact. It responds to the need to prepare students for an increasingly interdisciplinary, collaborative, and global job market. Interdisciplinary programs provide opportunities to strengthen the interaction between the business sector and research, especially in relation to the humanities and social science research and education, where interaction has been especially underdeveloped. There is a consensus that the current academic administrative structure is the most important barrier to interdisciplinary collaboration; other barriers like poor communication, etc., emanate from it. How can interdisciplinary education and research flourish while maintaining strong backgrounds in the disciplines? How can universities lower or remove barriers to faculty participation in interdisciplinary education and research and create porous, flexible, less redundant environment that facilitates the flow of ideas, people and resources across disciplinary boundaries? Is possible to have disciplines without disciplinary departments? In this short paper, the barriers and the challenges for developing interdisciplinary education and research will be summarized, lessons from some successful attempts and failures will be presented, and some approaches will be recommended for newly established institutions of higher education if the developing world such as Africa further discussion.
"The Need for Interdisciplinary Research and Education for Sustainable Human Development to Deal with Global Challenges,"
International Journal of African Development: Vol. 1
, Article 8.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/ijad/vol1/iss1/8