Interdisciplinary research has become an increasingly common means to conduct scientific research. Many pressing problems, like climate change, require examination that relies on the methods and insights of a range of academic disciplines. But interdisciplinary research is challenging. Disagreement on the nature or necessity of a hypothesis, for instance, undermines a group’s capacity to produce publishable research. When the group doesn’t recognize the disagreement, the challenges multiply. They can talk past each other without ever realizing it. Talking past one another is easy when one is used to talking to those with similar academic training, where shared meaning can be taken for granted.
When stepping across disciplinary lines, however, such common ground can’t be taken for granted. Interdisciplinary researchers have differences in epistemological and metaphysical commitments can be daunting to overcome, especially when those commitments are left unarticulated. Even their language is a barrier to collaboration. Besides the fact that they each bring discipline-specific jargon to the group, interdisciplinary scientists often apply different meanings to the same term (e.g., ‘hypothesis’ and ‘triangulation’). These barriers to effective interdisciplinary research are fundamentally philosophical problems; at their core they are metaphysical, epistemological, or axiological issues. In short, interdisciplinary research is a place where philosophy can make a difference.