Governments, companies, and academic organizations regularly try to speed scientific progress in key areas by forming interdisciplinary centers. Do these innovations or recombinations accelerate research or decelerate it by moving scientists away from their disciplinary contexts? Are interdisciplinary confluences already underway when these centers are created, or do they induce new synergies among researchers? What kinds of organizational models most effectively promote interdisciplinary research?
About the project
The research team undertook a longitudinal study of how scientific ideas, scholarly networks, and their institutional contexts influence one another. This project leveraged special access to data about Stanford University and its $4.3 billion dollar funding drive (commenced in 1998), which attempted to bolster interdisciplinary centers and shift university research toward addressing real-world problems. These data were set against the backdrop of large-scale public data sources. The project aimed to develop evidence-based tools and visualizations that would reveal whether and how the form and content of intellectual work was changing in response to these major initiatives.
Our interdisciplinary team applied new computational techniques in order to:
study the spread of ideas and methods across disciplines
contrast the success of virtual and ephemeral versus formal and physical organizations
understand the complex behavior of a large-scale intellectual enterprise and what attributes are important for successful innovation
The project was led by the following Stanford faculty members: