Researchers at LANL Invite You to Celebrate the Interdisciplinarian Within

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

One particularly illuminating aspect of the thesis writing process has been situating my interests in the existing disciplines.  Right now, I would say I fit somewhere in the intersection of human geography/economic sociology/anthropology of markets with an STS twist.  Very exact, I know.  For those of you similarly confused about where in academia you might find a home after graduation from CCT (and taking into consideration whatever unrelated major you studied in college and whatever odd or professional position you may have held), scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have a tool that can help: a detailed graphical chart showing the interconnected relationships between the various academic fields.

To create the map, researchers tracked nearly 1 billion user interactions at thousands of online scientific journals to see when a reader looking at an article in one academic field moved over to an article in another academic field.  This is already a progressive approach to looking at relationships between disciplines, which previously involved only looking at citation data.  It visualizes the interelatedness of scientific research (and research in general) and supports the idea that scientific ideas don’t come from a vacuum, but are affected and inspired by work from many different disciplines. Specifically, it gives credit to the humanities and social sciences for playing a role in scientific research.

What most inspires me about this work is that it speaks to the idea that each of us is a collection of texts.  As such, we are inherently interdisciplinary beings, and not because of the kind of articles that we publish, but the kinds that we consume.  Texts that we have read not only in order to write a specific, well-structured, argument driven paper, but that we have read while writing such a paper, when an idea or article sparks our curiosity and drives us to pursue that idea across disciplines, regardless of its ultimate utility for our work.  I know that my thesis work was, in part, inspired by readings about land deeds in England, strawberry markets in France, and the kicker – cyborgfish in Norway.  And if I had to situate myself on this map, I would hesitate, because, who knows what article my JSTOR browsing will lead me to tomorrow.