Return to Gossman Consulting, Inc Library

Return to David Gossman's home page

Return to Table of Contents

A QUANTITATIVE SYSTEM FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF INITIAL ORGANIZATIONAL NEEDS IN TRANSDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH

A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the College of Natural Science Michigan State University

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Science

by

David Gordon Gossman

June 1979

CHAPTER I

THE PROBLEM AND DEFINITION OF TERMS USED

During the last ten years, there has been a major upsurge in interest concerning interdisciplinary research. This interest follows on the heels of the environmental awareness of the late 1960's and comes with the advent of the energy crisis and related problems of the present times. There has been, however, no concrete discussion of the problems involved in organizing an interdisciplinary research group.

I. THE PROBLEM

Statement of the Problem. The purpose of this study is to produce a quantitative system for the assessment of initial organizational needs in transdisciplinary research.

Thesis Organization. The thesis will begin with a generalized discussion and review of the literature dealing with the problems of specialized research. This will lead to the topic of interdisciplinary, and finally, transdisciplinary research. An attempt will be made to delineate some of the descriptive qualities of these different types of research in Chapters I through VI.

The next step in this study will involve the development of a quantitative system for the assessment of philosophical differences between and among scientific specialities. Finally, it will be shown how other influential subsystems can be quantified. This will include such areas as information needs, Differences in specialty vocabularies and organizational complexity.

Importance of the Study. The importance of the study becomes quite apparent when one examines the situation of the industrial research and development (R&D) manager. This individual generally has a Bachelor of Science degree in some area of engineering or science, but may or may not have a masters of Business Administration. Suddenly he is thrust out of his own specialty into a situation where he must manage a group of other specialists from different areas and backgrounds. The new R&D manager is required to manage this situation with very little training and virtually no organizational tools. Hopefully, this study can provide some of those needed and, until now, nonexistent tools for the initial organization of the research organization.

II. DEFINITION OF TERMS

Communication. Communication will be defined as the exchange of symbols which are commonly shared by the individuals involved, and which evoke quite similar symbol-referent relationships in each individual.(1)

Disciplinary Research. Disciplinary research is carried out by one or more individuals within a single discipline.

Multidisciplinary Research. "...Group research whereby individuals from different disciplines work together on a common problem, but with limited interaction."(2) Figure I-1 is a diagramatic illustration of the multidisciplinary research system.

Interdisciplinary Research. "The term interdisciplinary research implies the joint, coordinated, and continuously integrated research done by experts with different disciplinary backgrounds, working together and producing joint reports, papers, recommendations, and/or plans, which are so tightly and thoroughly interwoven that the specific contributions of each researcher tend to be obscured by the joint product."(3) Figure I-2 is a diagramatic illustration of the interdisciplinary system.

Multidisciplinary Research Model:

D - discipline area

T - task

R - result

FIGURE I-1

Interdisciplinary Research Model:

D - discipline area

T - task

R - result

c- communication

FIGURE I-2

Transdisciplinary Research."...group research whereby individuals from different disciplines work as a team within a mutually accepted systems organization with an overall set of systems goals."

It could be said that transdisciplinary research is the optimum blend of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research for a given research project.

Continue to Chapter II