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date: 14 October 2019

(p. vii) Preface

(p. vii) Preface

The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (HOI) has been 25 years in the making. By way of preface, it is useful to recount its history over the two editions, published in 2010 and 2017.

While the editors of the first edition had been involved in interdisciplinary research—and research into interdisciplinarity—for decades, their active collaboration dates from 2001. During the 2001–2002 academic year Chief Editor Robert Frodeman was Hennebach Visiting Professor in the Humanities at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), where co-editor Mitcham was a professor within the Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies. Their common interests in interdisciplinarity led to creation of a project titled New Directions in the Earth Sciences and the Humanities, launched with seed money from CSM. Soon thereafter, they invited Julie Thompson Klein, then professor of humanities at Wayne State University, to join them.

New Directions launched formally in 2002, with the goal of conducting “experiments in interdisciplinarity.” A call for proposals for teams to create projects at the intersection of the Earth sciences and the humanities focused on environmental questions relating to the theme of water. Of the 31 proposals, reviewers chose six for funding of $10,000 each, contingent on a 1:1 match. Over the next few years New Directions attracted several hundred thousand dollars of funding from a number of entities—most prominently the National Science Foundation (NSF), but also the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), and Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the Pennsylvania State University Rock Ethics Institute. The six teams also agreed to meet in workshops to exchange insights arising from their projects.

The first workshop took place in spring of 2002 near Tucson, Arizona, at Biosphere 2. The lessons recounted there highlighted the need for some type of summary account of interdisciplinary research. A second workshop at CSM in the fall of 2002 continued the case-based approach to interdisciplinarity by including a field trip to the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility. It also led to a special issue of the CSM Quarterly in 2003, an early effort to collect articles on theory and practice of interdisciplinarity. The effort to sort out lessons continued at a third workshop, hosted by Penn State in fall of 2003. When Frodeman relocated to the University of North Texas (UNT) in fall of 2004, New Directions expanded to encompass science, humanities, and policy. Funding from UNT made it possible to address a wider range of interests across fields including differences across types of interdisciplinarity and critical assessment of knowledge production.

With this rebranding, New Directions turned its focus to a series of larger, thematic workshops. The first, held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in summer of 2004, was focused on Cities and Rivers: St. Petersburg and the Neva River. Funded by the NSF, it examined challenges in addressing water quality and quantity. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in March (p. viii) of 2006 the NSF funding supported a workshop on Cities and Rivers 2: New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta, and Katrina, focused on the breakdown between knowledge producers and users that clearly contributed to the disaster. Subsequent workshops took place in spring of 2007 at NASA Ames (on environmental ethics and space policy) and in southern Chile (on challenges facing frontier ecosystems).

Accumulating lessons from the experiments led the organizers of New Directions to approach Oxford University Press (OUP) in 2006 about creating a handbook that would pull together disparate strands of insight concerning inter-and trans-disciplinarity. After acceptance of the prospectus, workshop meetings centered on efforts not simply to explore interdisciplinary in particular case studies and projects but also to take interdisciplinarity itself as a project. Links also expanded to Europe, including contact with the Network for Transdisciplinary Research (td-net) around the concept of transdisciplinarity. Related activities included a meeting with Peter Weingart and Wolfgang Krohn, hosted at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) in Bielefeld, Germany, in fall of 2006. This event also led to engagement with a leading group for study of interdisciplinarity in the United States, the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Institutional support of New Directions at UNT increased by an order of magnitude in fall of 2008, when it was absorbed into the Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity (CSID). The first edition of this handbook became a cornerstone of the CSID. The CSID’s original purpose was to introduce a greater degree of order into the field of interdisciplinary research, education, and practice by creating a work that would become a basic reference for accounts of and future attempts at interdisciplinarity. Its scope was wide: encompassing historical accounts of attempts at interdisciplinarity, successes and failures within both research and education across domains and fields, and best practices for future explorations of interdisciplinarity. CSID was defunded and de-institutionalized by UNT in the fall of 2014, suffering the fate of many efforts at interdisciplinarity. Nonetheless, interdisciplinarity today takes place at an expanding number of sites, on multiple levels, and in multiple types and forms.

Seven years have passed between the first and this second edition. During this period, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity have grown epistemically, geographically, and institutionally. This new volume, consisting of half new essays and half revised essays, has sought to respond to these developments. It is distinguished by the addition of Roberto Carlos dos Santos Pacheco to the editorial team. Replacing Mitcham, Pacheco is a professor in the Department of Knowledge Engineering, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. This second edition combines updated and new contents in all sections. In addition to topics such as smart cities, sustainability sciences, and new public services, this edition also includes contributions of authors from more regions, particularly South America, where interdisciplinarity has been institutionally included as a public policy to foster education, science, and technology. Together, the updates and additions of the 2017 version handbook further its original goal of providing a well-grounded understanding of interdisciplinarity across its many forms and themes.