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Anthony M. McMichael Professor of Epidemiology London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine University of London London, England

Types of science: mono/multi/inter/trans

Scientists talk of monodisciplinary, recently, transdisciplinary research (

multidisciplinary, , .),

interdisciplinary

and, more

The term ‘interdisciplinary’

is

specifically

to

research

topics

often and

used loosely. methods that

It perhaps ought to refer occupy newly-recognised

more space

between existing inter-disciplinary ‘multidisciplinary’, one another (. .).

disciplines boundary). to refer t

substantive

interaction

use it

synonymously

(or at least entail Instead, we often

at the with

  • o

    collaboration between disciplines working alongside

The odd one out of this typology of scientific research is ‘transdisciplinary’. to something more than combinations of, or connection between, disciplines

It refers (. .).

Maybe some semantic analogy can help us to distil1 the special meaning of

‘transdisciplinary’ deport or report to a process of

? We export and import across a specified boundary ; we can across the same boundary. But when we transport we refer, at least, moving something across an intervening space. Transportation thus

entails a new accommodates

and substantive action this extra notion of

or an

experience. (. .) The emergent experience,

idea of transportation an emergent property

(...).

The essence of the prefix

‘trans’

is well

captured in the distinction

between

multinational and companies [which]

transnational

companies,

(,

.) The former

established

subsidiaries

in

many countries,

referred to (. .) each subsidiary

large being

‘based’ in the local national economy and being (somewhat) accountable to

jurisdiction. increasingly,

In contrast, transnational companies transcend operate free of national laws and regulations (.

national .).

boundaries

that and,

Such corporations thus acquire a truly global identity, and a style of operating that is not reducible to, nor constrained by, the agendas, structures and processes of the

underlying national societies (. ),

By analogy, then, multidisciplinary

science is an assemblage of collaborating

d i s c i p l i n e s . T h e w h o l e m a y o r m a y n o t b e g r e a t e r t h a n t h e s u m o f t h e p a r t s , I n science, the whole is not just greater than its derivative disciplinary transdisciplinary

parts but it has qualitatively integrates its contributory

different disciplines

properties. such that

Further, transdisciplinary science they are no longer evident as

disaggregatable components, Perhaps, then, we are describing which has emergent properties that are not only different necessarily predictable from, its contributory components (. ).

a type

of science

from, but

not even

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