Global Research Letters

Interdisciplinary research in Science

When i began doing research interdisciplinary research about 40 years ago i used both the social and a biological perspective and at that point in time those. Two perspectives were not partners. They weren’t even distant friends. The biological scientists interdisciplinary research thought social factors. Were irrelevant because they were relatively late evolutionary developments and even if they were relevant they were too complicated to understand social scientists interdisciplinary research were equally acrimonious toward biological perspectives. The thought was that by the middle of the 20th century we had already seen two world wars a great depression and a mountain of social injustices so forget trying to understand the brain in biology. That was too complicated to be of any use. We needed to turn to try to build better societies and better communities based on what we could understand about individuals situations and their behavior and so there was this antagonism between the two approaches. It seems obvious that ultimately if we’re going to understand human behavior the human mind we have to understand not only how the situation and social factors impact us but also how the biological factors impact both of those mechanisms and so i’ve pursued it from the very beginning and over time. Those two perspectives have become friendlier now. They are in full partnership and it is just one area of psychological science in the 21st century where you see. Very diverse perspectives being used being combined now to give us a more complete comprehensive understanding of how the mind works. And what underlies behavior one very simple example rhesus monkeys male rhesus monkeys have testosterone just like humans and sometimes we study the testosterone and those kinds of monkeys to understand how it might operate in humans. Uh research interdisciplinary research going back uh. Several decades now has shown that the level of testosterone in those rhesus monkeys predicts sexual advances toward females in the colony. Probably not a big surprise how biology is affecting social behavior.

What is equally important and powerful though and less well-known is that the testosterone in those monkeys is a function of the availability of receptive females in the colony. I kind of think think about it as the brain in biology has a heart right. It’s being shaped by what the social environment invites. What’s there to take advantage of. And so there’s this very nice reciprocal determinism. It isn’t that the social is governing. The biology of the biologies governing the social. But rather they’re working together in this reciprocal fashion and so that’s an example of how the two perspectives are being brought together to provide a more comprehensive understanding of behavior and how the mind operates i have served and continued to serve on a couple committees. That help advise the us government about what might be important areas at the national institutes of health. I currently serve on the center for scientific interdisciplinary research review council and their the notion is to help nih do better peer review and identify the most important areas of science to fund one of the most exciting advances. I’ve seen in these committees is the growth of interdisciplinary research science. The the importance of bringing massive interdisciplinary research scholars together from different universities. In order to solve big problems when you think about it big problems require lots of different answers. Lots of different perspectives. So in the 20th century you have these various fields of study that actually appear in introductory psych and table of contents as separate chapters. And they were fields of study that were pursued separately. They each had their own journals. And we read our quote canonical journal that journal in our field and that’s the journal in which we sought to publish our best research interdisciplinary research in the 21st century those boundary conditions are largely gone. We’re reading everybody else’s journals as well we’re publishing in scientific interdisciplinary research journals not just psychological journals but nature and science and then we have psychological science within psychology.

Which is read by the field writ large the best research interdisciplinary research middle of the 20th century it was done by individuals by single solitary geniuses in the 21st century it’s done by teams of scientists interdisciplinary research those teams are increasingly likely to be interdisciplinary research and multi-institutional so science has transformed how we actually ask faculty as scientists interdisciplinary research are doing our work to ask those big questions. One now works in these very complicated teams with lots of expertise with everyone sharing that expertise not just contributing their piece but sharing and arguing with one another to really advance our understanding of the big problems that we now face as a society and as a world a second feature that. I’ve really appreciated and i’ve enjoyed. Is the centrality of psychological science. Psychology has emerged as one of the seven hub science mathematics physics chemistry material sciences earth sciences medicine psychology and social sciences. And so you look and you say well how could that be but think of all the big problems we face uh poverty a huge psychological component behavioral component global warming. Do you know how little global warming would be a problem if humans changed what they did if we were more likely to conserve energy if we all were to be likely to turn down the heat and turn off the lights. Israeli left rooms pandemics are one of the big problems that we face as a global society in 1918 the spanish flu led to 100 million deaths worldwide in a single year bird. Flu is basically the same virus and has the threat of even more global damage and mortality if it were to go pandemic and whether or not bird flu goes. Pandemic is largely behavioral one of the threats for going pandemic is for instance air travel. It might emerge in a particular local community and somebody goes on a jet a transatlantic or trans-pacific flight and by the time they get off that has spread in so many different directions.

It’s hard to bring that genie back in the bottle and so the behavior is really important to understand if we’re going to keep pandemics at bay so we can protect global health and so all of these major health problems and major problems that we see as a global society have a central behavioral component for that reason psychological sciences. Become especially important to help deal with these problems that we face.

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