Bulletin of the Centre for
Research in Human Development


Volume 5, Issue 3, Fall 2012 PDF Download Download this issue

The multi-disciplinary focus of the CRDH

Resolving our differences: Qualitative and quantitative research methods
By Christopher Cardoso and Matthew T. Keough

Crossing Borders - die Überfahrt von Grenzen
By Shireen Abuhatoum

Highlights of Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Workshop
By Kierla Ireland

CRDH welcomes new Post-doctoral fellow
By Jackie Legacy

The trainee poster session reflects CRDH's diversity
By Melanie Mulligan-Pittarelli

Spotlight on Success
By Rami Nijjar

CRDH Upcoming events



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Highlights of Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Workshop

By Kierla Ireland

As part of CRDH’s 2012 Fall Workshop Series, Dr. Frank Kessel presented a talk on ‘Concepts of Inter-Disciplinarity’.  A senior fellow in the Centre for Health Policy and professor of early childhood multicultural education at the University of New Mexico, Dr. Kessel is an expert in the field of interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary (ID/TD) research.  He, in fact, co-authored a book on the topic (Interdisciplinary Research: Case Studies from Health and Social Science) and has delivered ID/TD workshops to researchers worldwide.

To begin the CRDH workshop, Dr. Kessel provided a brief history of the ‘ID/TD movement,’ drawing our attention to its exponential growth over the past two decades.  So much growth, in fact, that ‘interdisciplinarity’ has become a meme in academia, with its own journals, research institutes, government funding opportunities, and even degree programs.

So what, exactly, is ID/TD research?  To define the ‘disciplinarity’ family of terms (uni-; multi-; inter-; and trans-) Dr. Kessel referred to a recent supplement in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Stokols et al., 2008).  Interdisciplinarity implies a collaboration of professionals, each contributing expertise from his/her own discipline, to solve a common research problem.  Transdisciplinarity takes it a step further, integrating cross-disciplinary perspectives to produce a new, shared conceptual framework that addresses a common research problem. 

Sounds wonderful, even ideal, but it’s not easy.  According to Dr. Kessel, researchers who cross disciplinary boundaries inevitably face obstacles such as time pressure, status and language barriers, and even outright dismissal of their research as less prestigious.  On the flip side, those who have the support of their institutions, funding agencies, and training programs will excel in ID/TD research.  Importantly, Dr. Kessel noted that successful ID/TD researchers engage in heterarchical interactions, in which decision-making and privilege are equally distributed across disciplines.  An ID/TD collaboration is ‘anti-hierarchical’ in that no participant’s contribution is valued more than another because of professional status. Within a heterarchical framework, contributions to the research question from different disciplines are treated as equally valid.

In brief, although ID/TD research is the new buzz word, it may not be the best option for everyone.  But for those who have the ‘right blend’ of openness, flexibility, and humility, an interdisciplinary perspective may provide new and rewarding research opportunities.

Recommended Readings:
Kessel, F., Rosenfield, P.L., & Anderson, N.B. (Eds.) (2008). Interdisciplinary research: Case
studies from health and social science (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Rosenfield, P.L. (1992). The potential of transdisciplinary research for sustaining and extending
linkages between the health and social sciences. Social Science & Medicine, 35, 1343–57.
Stokols, D., Hall, K.L., Taylor, B., & Moser, R.P. (2008). The science of team science:

Overview of the field and introduction to the supplement. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35(2S), S77–S89.



CRDH is funded by the Programme des regroupements stratégiques


Kiran Vadaga

Associate Editors
Rami Nijjar
Shireen Abuhatoum


Christopher Cardoso
Jackie Legacy
Kierla Ireland
Matthew T. Keough
Melanie Mulligan-Pittarelli


Graphic Design
KAI Design & Communication

French Translation

Concordia, UQAM, McGill, U de Laval, UQTR, U de Montreal

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