Interdisciplinary Research

An interactive panel composed of REESE PIs addressed issues of conducting and analyzing results from interdisciplinary research, such as:

  • What is interdisciplinary research?
  • What does interdisciplinary learning comprise?
  • What are the challenges associated with conducting interdisciplinary research?
  • What role can or should REESE play in promoting interdisciplinary research?

Presentations included:

  • Nancy Nersessian, Varieties of Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering  [PDF]
  • David Shaffer, Assessing Complex Thinking Through Epistemic Network Analysis  [PDF]
  • Kim Kastens, Interdisciplinary Collaboration  [PDF]
  • Alan Porter, Measuring Interdisciplinarity: The ROLE/REESE Program  [PDF]

A PDF of the evaluation form for this session can be downloaded here.

About the Speakers

Nancy Nersessian is Regents’ Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she holds faculty positions in the School of Interactive Computing and the School of Public Policy. She has an A.B. in Physics and Philosophy from Boston University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Philosophy. Her research focuses on the creative research practices of scientists and engineers, especially modeling and how developing models leads to fundamentally new ways of understanding the world. She has numerous publications on this topic, including a recent book Creating Scientific Concepts (MIT, 2008). In current work, she is investigating creative problem solving in the highly interdisciplinary engineering sciences. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this research seeks to understand the dynamic interplay of cognition and culture in pioneering research laboratories, and how these laboratories foster and sustain creative and innovative practices. This understanding of the working methods of scientists is then channeled into translational research to design novel instructional settings that foster creativity and new teaching methods suited to such complex and rapidly advancing domains.

Alan Porter is an Associate Editor for Technology Analysis & Strategic Management. He co-founded the International Association for Impact Assessment and served it variously as editor of the Impact Assessment Bulletin, Secretary, Executive Director, and President (1995-96).Alan L. Porter's major concentration is technology forecasting and assessment. He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Caltech (1967) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Psychology from UCLA (1972). He served on the University of Washington faculty through 1974. In 1975 he joined the School of Industrial & Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, where he now serves as Professor Emeritus. He also is Professor Emeritus of Public Policy and co-directs the Technology Policy and Assessment Center at Georgia Tech. Current interests focus on computer-aided exploration of information in electronic Science & Technology databases. This "text mining" is used to profile research domains, determine competitor emphases, and generate "innovation indicators." Rapid profiling of thousands of abstract records on R&D activity can be performed in one day. Recent projects include High Tech Indicators of national competitiveness (National Science Foundation); Ways to enhance utilization of technology analyses (NSF; Center for Innovation Management Studies); and Technology Opportunities Analysis (DARPA, U.S. Army).

David Shaffer is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Educational Psychology and a Game Scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Before coming to the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Shaffer taught grades 4-12 in the United States and abroad, including two years working with the Asian Development Bank and US Peace Corps in Nepal. His M.S. and Ph.D. are from the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he taught in the Technology and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Shaffer was a 2008-2009 European Union Marie Curie Fellow. He studies how new technologies change the way people think and learn.

Kim Kastens is a Doherty Senior Research Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory & Adjunct Full Professor in Earth & Environmental Sciences and in Science Education, all at Columbia University. She received her B.A. in Geology and Geophysics at Yale University and her Ph.D. in Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California at San Diego). Her early research was in Marine Geology, mapping the seafloor and trying to unravel the tectonic and sedimentary processes that shaped it. From there, she moved onto instructional technology, developing the "Where are We?" software and curriculum materials to help elementary school children learn to use maps. Trying to understand if her software was effective, she began to research spatial thinking in geosciences. Her REESE projects are (a) a Synthesis project on thinking and learning in geosciences (with Cathy Manduca), (b) an investigation of how expert geologists and novices integrate information from scattered rock outcrops to envision a buried geological structure (with Lynn Liben), and (c) an investigation of how middle and high school Earth Science students learn about the full scale Earth System from classroom-scale analog models (with Ann Rivet).