On the Nature of Cross-Disciplinary Integration: A Philosophical Framework

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Meeting grand challenges requires responses that constructively combine multiple forms of expertise, both academic and non-academic; that is, it requires cross-disciplinary integration. But just what is cross-disciplinary integration? In this paper, we supply a preliminary answer by reviewing prominent accounts of cross-disciplinary integration from two literatures that are rarely brought together: cross-disciplinarity and philosophy of biology. Reflecting on similarities and differences in these accounts, we develop a framework that integrates their insights—integration as a generic combination process the details of which are determined by the specific contexts in which particular integrations occur. One such context is cross-disciplinary research, which yields cross-disciplinary integration. We close by reflecting on the potential applicability of this framework to research efforts aimed at meeting grand challenges.