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Interdisciplinary research is lauded for its transformative qualities. Innovative IDR has the potential to change the scientific landscape and reconfigure disciplines, or even lead to the emergence of entirely new research domains. However, the statement that IDR leads to more qualitative problem-solving than disciplinary research merits further research. Specialized disciplinary research has also led to ground-breaking research, and is not necessarily inferior to IDR (Jacobs, 2017).
IDR has been around since the early establishment of the modern disciplinary system. Disciplines should not be taken for static and natural, they are social and dynamic entities which can be studied and approached as such. The disciplinary dynamics perspective, which was introduced by van den Besselaar, can be seen as an important first step in the bibliometric identification and approach of IDR and disciplinary change. For qualitative research assessment and peer review on the other hand, we propose the guiding principles introduced by Klein as important cornerstones.
On a final note, the creation of distinct criteria and practices for evaluation of IDR may introduce new difficulties (Huutoniemi et al., 2010), since it requires “an operational definition of such research, plus a set of viable parameters to empirically distinguish it from disciplinary research – a problem that is not yet fully solved […] The participation of researchers in the definition of criteria and the selection of reviewers ensures that more aspects of the work can be more comprehensively assessed. Such a dialogue and feedback loops between researchers and reviewers also supports a mutual commitment to long term goals” (Huutoniemi, 2010, p. 313).