biomatrix systems theory blog

interdisciplinary versus transdisciplinary

A growing recognition of the interdependence of systems across scientific disciplines manifests as an increase in interdisciplinary research, whereby two or more disciplines work together around a specific issue.

However, from a systemic perspective, interdisciplinary cooperation and integration still implies fragmentation, albeit at a higher level. It is a bottom up approach, whereby two or more disciplines share their knowledge to co-produce emergent knowledge that transcends and contextualises the interacting disciplines.

By comparison, systems theory (especially the integrated version of Biomatrix Systems Theory) offers a top down approach of investigation and cooperation across disciplines. Because it provides generic frameworks and organising principles for the interaction of systems of the naturosphere, psycho-sociosphere and technosphere, it can facilitate transdisciplinary debate and research across all types of systems.

Transdisciplinary debate can also facilitate the exploration of some of the assumptions on which the various scientific disciplines rest, thereby initiating a shift in paradigm. It can also facilitate contextualisation of discipline specific knowledge and the emergence of new knowledge from inter and transdisciplinary cooperation. From a philosophy of science point of view, a transdisciplinary exploration produces knowledge derived from synthesis (i.e. from the interaction of a discipline with others within a containing whole).

The knowledge derived from synergy complements the discipline specific knowledge which is mostly derived from analysis. Both types of knowledge together present a larger truth.
It needs to be understood that the transdisciplinary input is to provide a framework and organising principles (e.g. in form of questions). It does not provide content. The content (i.e. the synergistic knowledge associated with specific disciplines) comes from the disciplines themselves – i.e. through discipline specific answers to the generic transdisciplinary questions.

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