Accepted Paper:

Semantics in interdisciplinary research  


Bruno Delesalle (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes)

Paper short abstract:

Scientists involved in interdisciplinary research have to face a challenge: to be fully understood by colleagues from other scientific domains. It implies that a same meaning is given to the words, especially when common words are used or when specific words are used in various disciplines.

Paper long abstract:

The fundamentals of interdisciplinarity are to bring together scientists from various disciplines. They have their own theoretical concepts, investigation methods, ways to report findings and, of course, specific vocabulary. This vocabulary has developed for either descriptive or conceptual purposes. Obviously, it is useful to have technical words to describe a structure or a process. Also, it can be interesting to have some privacy in the discipline as the jargon used can be only understood by members.

Interdisciplinarity exactly requires the opposite scheme. As it implies to communicate, every words have to be fully understood by any scientist involved, whatever the discipline. The question especially arises when common words are used as their sense may differ or indicate a different concept in another discipline. For example, in ecology, a population is a group of individuals belonging the same species, living in the same place whereas, in social sciences, various criteria, referring to e.g. politics, , language, culture can be involved. It may also concern specific words used in several disciplines, but not with the same meaning. Resilience is a perfect example, which usually describes the way a system return to its previous state after a perturbation and is usually opposed to resistance. However, the word was firstly used in physics to describe how a material resists to shocks.

Addressing this question in anthropology as welle as in natural sciences and economics, would be fruitful to avoid misunderstanding between scientists and to take a full benefit of this interdisciplinary approach.

Panel P112
Interdisciplinary research and nature-society interactions