The impact of interdisciplinarity on disciplines : A study of nanomedicine in France and California
The rise of interdisciplinarity in the sciences raises many questions about the future of the disciplines as such. To what degree will they remain the central units of differentiation between the sciences ? Are disciplines destined to disappear or rather to combine in new ways in response to scientific dynamics and political pressures that favor interdisciplinarity ? The article studies the effects of interdisciplinary cooperation on disciplinary territories and boundaries. In contrast to an approach to this question frequently applied in sociology of science that emphasizes the cognitive dimensions of disciplines, we focus on their social dimensions. Specifically, we examine to what extent interdisciplinarity can be a resource for action and help existing disciplines consolidate their institutions. Empirical study of nanomedicine in France and California brings to light two features that work to bolster the territory of disciplines engaging in interdisciplinarity : one, interdisciplinary practices that work to demarcate the discipline with regard to earlier or competing approaches ; two, discipline boundary flexibility, which makes it possible to enlarge discipline jurisdiction.
Keywords. PUBLIC RESEARCH – SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINES – INTERDISCIPLINARITY – DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM – SCIENCE POLICY – NANOMEDICINE