Yellow Track (C-33): Interdisciplinary Collaborations

- Session Description (click to collapse)

Confronting climate change requires collaboration across a number of barriers: nationality, language, economic development, and also between academic disciplines. In this session we will discuss interdisciplinary collaboration particularly as it relates to the role of Public Health researchers.

These questions will be the focus of discussion:

  • What are, in general, the barriers to interdisciplinary research, and how can they be overcome?  
  • What are successful models for interdisciplinary research?
  • What should be the role of Public Health in bridging gaps between academic and non-academics (policy, NGO, military)?


This graphic, from a 2010 co-citation study (Bjurstrom, 2011) of the IPCC Third Assessment Report, suggests that medical journals are cited but not well integrated with the rest of the report.  
Co-reference clusters of journals from IPCC

Suggested Resources

Stanhill, G. 2001. The growth of climate change science: A scientometric study 48, no. 2. Climatic change: 515 - 524.

- Moderator (click to collapse)

Nathan Bos

Nathan Bos is a Senior Staff Researcher in the System and Information Sciences Group of the Milton Eisenhower Research Center at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.  He conducts experimental research in computer-supported collaborative work, field research in online scientific collaboratories, and develops agent-based models of social and cultural processes. Nathan has 50+ publications in peer reviewed conferences and journals. 


Ph.D., Psychology and Education, University of Michigan, 1998
B.A., Psychology, Calvin College, 1991

- Notes (click to collapse)

Recorders' Notes
10:36 am
Started with introduction into the topic by Dr. Bos. 
Completed introductions around the room, including an introduction to Dr. Behnassi's abstract on this topic.

Dr. Bos began an overview of interdisciplinary collaborations including an increase in the number of academic papers and patents being written. There has also been an increase in the co-authorship of these papers, specifically within the discipline in science and engineering. 

Roni Neff question - To what degree does the increase in co-authorship relate to people's multiple appointments? 
Answer by NB - Does not believe it is a major contributor. 

Q by NB - "Why has there been an increase in authorship?" 
Opened up for discussion - Tenure issues, increased funding to science and engineering, researchers completing multiple projects due to insecurity, desire to assess larger topics (multiple institutions comign together)

NB - Discussed basic types of bibliographic studies, co-citation of journals cited in 3rd IPCC reports, journal clustering

Opened up discussion about why medical literature is not as inter-disciplinary in terms of co-authorship and what types of problems that presents
  - Cheryl Parkinson - Agrees it is very poartitioned in the US whereas in Britian, climate change is driven not driven by physicians
  - May have been worsened by George Bush's policies?
  - US physicians are too clinically burdened, have high rates of debt, etc (SOM Faculty)
  - Roni Neff - In contrast, there are physicians and public health (PH) workers doing this work. Timeline of when PH workers got involved may have a contribution
  - Ashley Maltz - Preventive medicine physicians can contribute to improve collaboration
 between PH workers and physicians
  - Cheryl Parkinson - Maybe Bioethics (involveing strict respect for patient autonomy and confidentiality) may be contributing
  - Susan Boggess, Dept of State - Public health funding is much larger than other industries (ie, agriculture) and this often creates conflicts among the agencies

NB - Mitigation strategies - where should there be influence where there isn't?
  - Dr. Ana Pardos - Air quality is important area where we can increase dialogue on mitigation strategies
NB - Do you believe that the different profile of disease entities being seen in clinics are due to environmental issues?
  - Dr. Arjun (Emergency Med physician, JHU, SOM)- Yes, both in Suriname and Baltimore. Lack of water (poor sanitation vs drinking soda), malnutrition - (decreased access to food vs eating bad foods in US). Very multi-factorial. People are being driven inside more, asthma is worsening, etc. Climate change is not on agenda at national physican group meetings - either from incorrect data or lack thereof. Dissemination of data is key for driving policy changes. 
  - Sree Shankar - One should be able to identify what drives climate change (CC) (agent vs environment) - differential impact not recognized. Epidemiology is more specific than the current data on CC. Lacking research data on this area. Need to incorporate geo-medicine. Can access the data through WHIG group.  

   - Dr. Arjun - current budget debate illustrated how data can be slanted (abortion debate, both sides havce good data). Do we have truly objective data on CC?  People may argue that people who study CC have an agenda and may be biasing data. Need objective data.

NB - What are barriers to mutlidisciplinary collaboration? 
  - Is it worth talking about variations in jargon? People aren't always talking about the same thing - different definitions and understanding a problem. Interdisciplinary vs multidisciplinary. 
  - Katie Lima - Collaborative research generally occurs within large genres of science, ie, between social science experts. 
  - NB - inter- vs multi-disciplinary is new topic for him
  - Physician from Columbia - In Columbia, inter-disciplinary - people all know the same language, multi-discp -- people who come together with close definitions but different services. Trans-disciplinary - translating between people from all different perspectives
   - Kim from APL - we are talking about multi-discp. Believes it's a sensible place to start. Inter-disc is forming a large group from multiple sub-groups.  
   - NB - IPCC works together for months and eventually understand each other. Can they translate that out to others?
   - Kim - Nature of the data varies. (ie, social networking data vs other forms of data). Can't always map them together. Need to understand how people will want ot use your data. 
   - Mohamed Behnassi - research is super specialized and does not necessarily take into account other areas. Cannot continue CC research w/o taking other disciplines into account. Need other disciplines. Perceptions and misperceptions occur among researchers themselves. Need to accept each other more. 
   - NB - issue of science policy makers and the public. Consider broad scientific research. What are the issues perceived by people coming from other countries?
   - Columbian physician - In Columbia, lots of projects going on on-the-ground, but they are not written up. Big problem. American researchers work in different time worlds than policy makers. Decision makers need to make decision more acutely, researchers need more time. Multi-discp is approach for researchers, not decision makers.  Cultural barriers. In Latin America, not English speakers and approach the problem very differently - very limited resources. Why doesn't the US have strategic plans already?? Very different. Need to transfer technologies to benefit both. MOre than multi-discp collaboration.
   - NB - Concurs. Discussed his past experience with different cultures just in planning conferences.  Regional conferences vs cyber conferences, based on level of resources
   -  Dr. Behnassi - linked to weak governance in many developing countries. National research poilicy makers are not inter-discp, can favor one discipline over another. 
   -  Dr. Arjun - wants to add to that. Working with a periodontist who's research was squashed by dental community. Collaboration can sometimes put people out of business. 
   - Does that translate to CC researchers?
   - Dr. Prados - Scientific research has been suppressed in the US, even the EPA's research. Suppressed by the executive branch. 
   - Susan Boggess - broadly speaking, the programmatic funding is very difficult (no funds). Should collaborate to collaborate for the greater good.
   - Katie Lima - local governemnt worked through 3rd party funder to fund programs at local level. Is a major challenge (institutional barrier)
   - Barrier made by not having opportunities to interact w/ other science disciplines. When done, it allows an open forum and is extremely beneficial. 
   - NB - 30 meter study - researchers in offices w/in 30 meters of each other are more likely to co-author papers together than people w/in the same field.
   - Kim - Integrations between disciplines can be so powerful. 
   - Huge investment in time and it's difficult to achieve that with the threat of tenure. 
   - Roni Neff - W/in academic structure, there is a need for being recognized w/in your field and you work towards that despite knowing that multi-discp work is needed. 

11:32 am - Conclusion of session  



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Correction: Cheryl Macpherson by Cheryl.Macpherson
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