Interdisciplinary Methods in Water Resources


In the face of a myriad of complex water resource issues, traditional disciplinary separation is ineffective in developing approaches to promote a sustainable water future. As part of a new graduate program in water resources, faculty at the University of Idaho have developed a course on interdisciplinary methods designed to prepare students for team-based interdisciplinary research. The course introduces the steps required for interdisciplinary research outlined by scholars of interdisciplinary research, but focuses on the key step of integration. Over four years of course development, faculty found that the initial barriers to effective integration are differences in language, methodology, values, and goals across disciplines, and misperceptions about those factors in other disciplines. Thus, initial class discussions focus on the methods and problems encountered with communicating and integrating across disciplines. Students then learn to use simplified versions of tools for integration, requiring them to first develop a conceptual understanding of linkages between disciplines, then to explore those linkages. The introduction to tools for integration is achieved through three projects that span physical, biological and behavioral sciences, political science, and law. Students on interdisciplinary teams are tasked with being the expert/teacher in their discipline, but must achieve sufficient understanding of the other disciplinaes reflected in the problem to understand and articulate their relation to the problem and how integration with their primary discipline alters the process or outcome. From this initial preparation students in the water resources program are better prepared to go on to effective interdisciplinary research.




Cosens, Barbara, et al. "Interdisciplinary Methods in Water Resources." Issues in Integrative Studies 29 (2011): 118-143.