Saturday, October 20, 2012

multidisciplinary research -- duck, cheetah, sailfish and spine-tailed-swift

I have recently written about "lead vs. impact" in industry research,  today I would like to continue these series of thoughts by observing that achieving a lead is often a result of multidisciplinary research.  There are two ways to approach multidisciplinary research, one is:  develop versatile, multidisciplinary researchers, and the other is tight collaboration of researches from multiple disciplines.   The difference can be explained by examples from the animal world.

A duck is a multidisciplinary animal

It swims, it walks and it flies.  It is not excellent in any of them, but he can do all.  

Looking at the question who is the fastest swimmer, flier and runner we come across the sailfish, spine-tailed-swift and cheetah 

It is obviously cheaper to keep one duck than to keep these three animals,  and in many cases the walking, swimming and flying abilities of the duck are "good enough".   This is particularly true when the scale of ambition for the research is "impact".  However, when the aim is "lead", it is often the combination of people who are excellent in their disciplines collaborating together which constitutes the lead.    Versatility cannot replace excellence.     More  posts in these series - later.   


Rainer von Ammon said...

There are some problems w.r.t. "excellence":
- How is it measured that someone is excellent? Perhaps a geparde is an outdated technology since some time already, and human enhancements like the 750-honda motorbike of my friend 45 years ago are much more excellent, perhaps?
- What are the criteria for excellence at all?
- Today we are only excellent as a team or together. How to build an excellent team?
- Is the allegedly excellent guy able to cooperate as a team player?
- Would you love the excellent as a private person? means: does the chemistry fit with him and the team? Otherwise s/he would disturb the team.
- ...
Just to name a few.
We are just looking for the right excellent team players for our EU project proposal. EU project proposals and similar are always looking for the excellence, Networks of Excellence, etc. Since a while, we have an invasion of a ubiquitous excellence. But presently, it seems we have started a discussion about what "excellence" actually is - except a nice or romantic buzz word.

Rainer von Ammon said...

Also, since a while we have the discussion about copyright and plagiarism, who can really say that an idea is from her or him alone and originally. Gaia is one body actually and the universe in the multiverse belongs together as well, perhaps, nobody knows, but could be. So the idea is ubiquitous at same time. And when the idea was thought, it is in a journal, on a website, in a book, again and again, in different contexts, combined with other ideas to new ideas, for thousands of years when you have passed away already, but your ideas are still there, like e = m c squared, very often it is suddenly falsified, are you then still excellent, and so on... Take your philosopher's hat:-)