The authors of a specific guide need to define, at a preliminary stage, within which discipline or category of disciplines the guide will be used. This is worthy because for different disciplines the dimensions to be considered – and hence the criteria – may vary widely.
There exists numerous lists of disciplines, short ones and rather long ones, as illustrated in the examples below. Each list cited here was built for a specific purpose and it can seldom be used as such when preparing an evaluation guide. But such list may help the guides’ writers.
As a first approximation it may be convenient to use the short list of categories used by the Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences in organising its scientific activities :
- human sciences
- natural and medical sciences
- technical sciences
Such broad categories can obviously then be broken down according to the local needs.
Excess breakdown should be definitely avoided.
One should keep in mind, however, that each categorization of the scientific disciplines has its drawback since it may tear apart closely connected disciplines. As an example : medicine and agriculture are linked to biology, which itself is strongly connected to chemistry; chemistry is based on physics, which itself is strongly influenced by mathematics, but so is a big part of economics; engineering is for a large part applied physics, etc... It is hard to bring an organizing structure in this interconnected web of disciplines!
Examples of listings
Here are four examples of listings - varying from 6 to 36 disciplines or categories - used for a variety of purposes, together with the sites’ addresses where more information on such use can be found :
- S&E Field Classification of the U.S. National Science Foundation
- Dewey decimal classification for scientific libraries
- Nederlandse basisclassificatie (in Dutch)
- QUANU (Quality Assurance Netherland Universities), Protocol for Research Assessment in the Netherlands, Standard Evaluation Protocole
Multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity
Multidisciplinarity is increasingly used in the field of development research,
and must therefore be dealt with in the guide when appropriate. As already mentioned above, a due consideration of the disciplines involved will influence the choice of dimensions and the instructions provided
in the specific guide.
Actually the trend now is to consider rather interdisciplinarity, or better transdisciplinarity:
Multidisciplinarity: Using the knowledge/understanding of more than one discipline.
e. g. Physics and History; Biology and Architecture.
Interdisciplinarity: Using the methods of one discipline within another, e. g. Biochemistry; Ecophilosophy; Astrophysics.
Focus on an issue such as pollution or hunger both within and beyond discipline boundaries with the possibility of new perspectives.
Transdisciplinarity complements disciplinary approaches. The transdisciplinary vision goes beyond the exact sciences and demands dialogue with the humanities and the social sciences. The recognition of the existence of different levels of reality governed by different types of logic is inherent in the transdisciplinary attitude.
Call to the site visitors: for completing this annex in the Guidelines, visitors are invited to provide suggestions.