Making Extra- and Intra-Disciplinary Collaboration Work

By TDLC

August 5, 2007 --Members of the TDLC presented a symposium on collaboration at the Cognitive Science Society this summer in Nashville. Research in the TDLC brings together methodologies, tools, concepts, and data from areas like cognitive science, machine learning, psychology, neuroscience, and education to understand human learning and cognition.

Collaborative interdisciplinary research of this sort is becoming increasingly attractive (and perhaps unavoidable) as the questions being tackled become more complex. Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the value of multidisciplinary collaboration on the part of both federal and private funding agencies and, consequently, an escalating emphasis on supporting truly collaborative research. Despite all of this, scientists vary greatly in their experience with collaborations and opportunities are rare to discuss how to make the most of collaborations, what factors make collaborations work or not work, and how to measure the success or failure of collaborations.

This symposium examined successful models in which a number of scientists have bridged the extradisciplinary gap across disciplines and the intradisciplinary gap across methods and concepts within a discipline. It turned an analytic lens on the value of collaborative networks and teams of researchers and reported on the logistic, social, and scientific processes that drive intellectual growth and research. It also discussed how to measure collaboration and interdisciplinarity at both small and large scales. In a unique combination, the history of one collaborative group, the

Perceptaul Expertise Network, was related from both the perspectives of the scientists and their funding agency. The TDLC was highlighted for its efforts to expand the collaborative research network model to a network of networks.

As such, this symposium examined collaborations as entities worthy of scientific study by cognitive scientists in and of themselves, collaborations as engines for novel interdisciplinary research in cognitive science, and measures of collaborative activities in cognitive science as data to be modeled and analyzed.

Presenters included Thomas Palmeri and Isabel Gauthier of the PEN network, Jay McClelland and Rob Goldstone of the TDLC Advisory Board, John Bruer of the McDonnell Foundation that originally funded the formation of PEN six years ago, and Christian Schunn from the University Pittsburgh and the Learning Research and Development Center.