By Ted Grasela and Jill Fiedler-Kelly
While many scientific problems can be addressed by the methods and concepts of a single discipline, solutions to more interesting problems, especially in drug development, can only be found by fully integrating ideas from many different disciplines. The successful solution of these more complicated problems is dependent on the scientists’ ability to engage in a robust, interdisciplinary knowledge synthesis process. To achieve its goal, this process must integrate available information and rational extrapolations. The team needs to better understand the nature of the research problem and define acceptable approaches in the search for solutions.
This necessity of interdisciplinary collaboration is based on several realities. First, quality of the collaboration directly impacts the utility and validity of the knowledge synthesis effort. Lack of collaboration gets in the way of true understanding by anyone, let alone a team. Second, knowledge is expanding at an exponential rate, so collaboration is needed to reinforce understanding. Third, during the earliest stages of research, relevant data may be restricted to small groups of people, who may not be able to easily translate it to the larger team. Consequently, the knowledge synthesis process requires extrapolation by team members with the ability to discern potentially important results and to share their understanding with other team members–sometimes asking seemingly irrelevant or naive questions. Finally, no reasonable decision is made without the team’s understanding and support.
The 2014 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition sunrise session, Flying in Formation: Overcoming the Challenges of Interdisciplinary Collaboration, aims to describe approaches to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. Specific objectives include:
- Describing the paradox of scientific excellence that enables discipline-specific excellence while reducing program-wide productivity, and
- Describing a strategy for developing a conceptual schema that can serve as a common framework for describing the research problem and identifying knowledge gaps that increase the risk of failure.
So take your first step toward interdisciplinary collaboration: join us in San Diego!