Sep 17, 2015 0 Comments in Neurotoxicity by

Solving the epidemic of neurotoxicity requires the cross disciplines of neuropsychology and neurotoxicology. However, there is strong resistance to implementing interdisciplinarity as a solution, and therefore there are few interdisciplinary scientists of neuropsychology and neurotoxicology.

For example, the prestigious journal Nature just published an article in which the author wrote:

“… [S]upporters of interdisciplinary research say that it has been slow to catch on, and those who do cross academic disciplines face major challenges when applying for grants, seeking promotions or submitting papers to high-impact journals. In many cases, scientists say, the trend is nothing more than a fashionable label. “There’s a huge push to call your work interdisciplinary,” says David Wood, a bioengineer at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “But there’s still resistance to doing actual interdisciplinary science.”

The idea of dividing academic inquiry into discrete categories dates back to Plato and Aristotle, but by the sixteenth century, Francis Bacon and other philosophers were mourning the fragmentation of knowledge…

In the nineteenth century, the disciplinary boundaries of the modern university started to take root. The disciplines surged in number and power after the Second World War, as nations, particularly the United States, boosted their research support. “It’s the moment when universities increased exponentially,” says Vincent Larivière, an information scientist at the University of Montreal in Canada. “And the size of the university increased by creating more departments.”…

Specialities proliferated as individual disciplines were repeatedly subdivided. Biology was split into botany and zoology, then into evolutionary biology, molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, biophysics, bioengineering and more. Late last year, Jerry Jacobs, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, counted the number of biology-related departments at Michigan State University in East Lansing. There were nearly 40…

The interdisciplinary trend is … growing in Asia. In 2000, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) laid out a plan for interdisciplinary research, and universities have launched several cross-cutting centres over the past decade, including the Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies at Peking University in Beijing. The NSFC plans to launch further interdisciplinary projects in the coming years, says Yonghe Zheng, deputy director-general of the foundation’s Bureau of Science Policy. “China is a developing country,” he says. “So the universities and institutes can quickly set up some new centres which reflect the new trend in interdisciplinary research.”

Interdisciplinarity studies in the United States may be growing also: “… In the United States, the NIH ran a programme to stimulate interdisciplinary research from 2004 to 2012. It resulted in some changes, such as starting to recognize multiple principal investigators on what had been considered single-investigator grants — a switch that removed a disincentive to collaborate. Since then, the agency has not perceived a need to follow up with any other incentives, noting that there are more than 4,000 active NIH-funded research projects that bill themselves as interdisciplinary. “Our general sense is that interdisciplinary research has become a very standard way of doing science,” says Betsy Wilder, head of the NIH Office of Strategic Coordination. “It really pervades NIH funding.””

Reference: Nature 525, 308–311 (17 September 2015)

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