Interdisciplinary Collaboration - Institute on Governance

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Government Science and Innovation in the New Normal

Discussion Paper

Shelby Torres, Rhonda Moore, and Jeff Kinder | November 2022

The term discipline was first introduced by the Romans in recognition of the specialized knowledge required for specific professions in areas such as law and medicine (Repko et al., 2017). A major uptake in the drawing of disciplines and categorization of knowledge can be seen from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. During the scientific revolution, science itself became distinctive from other branches of knowledge such as philosophy, mechanics and religion (Gieryn, 1983). Science was subsequently subdivided into fields such as botany, chemistry, and astronomy. As these areas of knowledge expanded and began to develop their own field specific methods and theories, scientists began specializing in single disciplines and sub-disciplines.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as universities became increasingly focused on research and generating new knowledge, they reinforced disciplinary boundaries (Repko et al., 2017). The academic disciplines of today largely remain the product of the categorisation of knowledge that evolved throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Natural philosophy was divided into physics, chemistry, and math, while natural history became biology. The social sciences began to follow suit and today we have disciplines such as anthropology, economics and political science. The emergence of disciplines has promoted knowledge production and resulted in major advancements of specific fields and innovative research.

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