The Measurement of 'Interdisciplinarity' and 'Synergy' in Scientific and Extra-Scientific Collaborations
26 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2020 Last revised: 22 May 2020
Date Written: May 17, 2020
Problem-solving often requires crossing boundaries, such as those between disciplines. In collaborations with third parties, however, “interdisciplinarity” is not necessarily an objective in itself, but can be a means for creating “synergy.” When policy-makers call for interdisciplinarity,” they often mean “synergy.” However, the measurement of “synergy” requires a methodology very different from the measurement of “interdisciplinarity.” Synergy is generated when the whole offers more possibilities than the sum of its parts. We discuss recent advances in the operationalization and measurement of “interdisciplinarity” and propose a methodology for measuring “synergy.” An increase in the number of options above the sum of the options in subsets can be measured as redundancy; that is, the number of not-yet-realized options. Increasing redundancy reduces the relative uncertainty; for example, in niches. The operationalization of the two concepts — “interdisciplinarity” and “synergy”— as different outcome indicators enables us to distinguish between the effects and the effectiveness of interventions in research priorities.
Keywords: Interdisciplinarity, Synergy, Niche, Redundancy, Reduction of Uncertainty, Measurement
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