Wednesday, September 23, 2009



As we are constantly reminded during our coursework at ATREE, we are in an ‘interdisciplinary’ course. I thought I knew what all that was about before I joined.

I thought wrong.

It turns out now that not only is all that I thought of ‘interdisciplinary’ (ID) redundant, but it has four other cool guys it likes to hang out with. There’s CD (cross disciplinary), MD (multi disciplinary), TD (trans disciplinary) and PD (pseudo disciplinary). Okay, I admit I made up the last one, but judging by the undisciplined rate of the growth of disciplines, it spells trouble for us. Actually being a firm believer in evolution, it becomes even more uncomfortable to tell people that I’m in an ID course! I’m not going to rattle on about this, but let me tell you that there are apparently at least 17 certified people in this world who know the differences between ID and its pals. I can certify that I’m certainly not one of them. As an aside, and I kid you not, there are apparently people studying interdisciplinary practitioners to see how they work!!

In one of our many readings for the coursework was a paper on practicing interdisciplinarity. If it was meant to be an advertisement for interdisciplinarity, it falls flat. Instead, it will terrify all prospective ID practitioners because of the range of reasons it provides for the failure of ID to take off. Practitioners, it says, need to rid themselves of their biases and value judgements that are a part of their training in any discipline. Then comes the serious part. That many of the barriers aren’t actually in our hands at all! Then the final nail. Parent institutions should be convinced that the outputs that emerge from an ID collaboration should not be weighed by conventional disciplinary or departmental standards! Is that a realistic situation? With just a handful of people around who have even heard of ID, doesn’t look like good times ahead.

As ecologists and ID practitioners, we are expected to bridge the gap (divide?) between the natural and social sciences and find collaborative answers to all the burning problems that the environment faces. As if it wasn’t intimidating enough already. Oh, did I mention that nobody is still very sure how to do that?

I think I need a drink.


Itti Bali said...

Hey Roy, what fun - welcome to Interdisciplinarity.. wait a sec, is it not officially a word yet?? Yes it is a pretty mess of jargon and theoretical ideas that nobody has learned to operationalize. And then having to deal with the gatekeepers of respective disciplines.

Here is a paper I found helpful in clarifying differences about ID and the cool guys it hangs out with (for eg. ID/MD/TD all == CD ;)
Eigenbrode et al. Bioscience 2007 Vol 57(1),55-64.
PS: I say PseudoDisciplinary is the best one.. you gotta copyright the term quickly LOL

Dawgmatix said...

hey itti, thanks for the comments.. glad to see you on the ID boat! will surely give that paper a dekko soon! And yeah, lets try and give poor PD its rightful place in jargonland :)

ricky said...

Hey Roy, My name is ricky from Mizoram. I have a masters degree in Botany from Nagpur hoping to get to work on Bamboos and it's economical importance.
My friend Ivory from Saiha has been following your research work and ask me to have a view of some of some of your blogs (actually most of your blogs!).
One link leads to another and here i am wanting to know more about your research. Please, keep on on updating your blog as we (Ivory & I) read each and every updated items.
There's one confusion though! Whenever, we read your blogs, we are always confused whether your name is Nimesh Ved or Anirban Datta Roy?
Is there any social network where we could follow each other.. for e.g, facebook/orkut/myspace/twitter, etc.
lastly, i love what you are doing and your love for nature. Hope to see you in Mizoram again soon...


Dawgmatix said...

Ricky! Thanks for your comments.. I'm so glad to know that people from Mizoram are reading my blog.. its one of the most favourite places in the world for me, and I cant wait to get back there!!
To clear your confusion, I'm not Nimesh, who is an ex-colleague of mine in an NGO I used to work in.
Do mail me at and I can tell you more about my work.. Meanwhile bear with me for the long gaps between posts :)

I am said...

Roy, I am delighted to find your blog :)

Read some your recent ones on woodpecker and the flying giant squirrel.. you are tagged now.. shall follow your post..

keep writing..

Dawgmatix said...

thanks Tanu.. even more pressure to update it :)