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Systems Biology, Interdisciplinarity and Disciplinary Identity

Calvert, J

April 2011


This chapter explores a particular form of collaboration: interdisciplinarity. I make a distinction between collaborative interdisciplinarity, when individuals come together from different disciplines, and individual interdisciplinarity, where multiple disciplinary skills are found within one individual. I examine both these forms of interdisciplinarity in the context of the new field of systems biology. Systems biology is a very interesting site because, according to some accounts, it is defined by its interdisciplinarity, since the study of biological systems requires the skills of biologists, physicists, engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians. This chapter explores the motivations for collaborative interdisciplinarity in systems biology, reflecting on some of the communication problems that can arise. It then discusses the possibility of individual interdisciplinarity, which, if achieved, would have implications for disciplinary identity, training and academic reward structures.

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