Monday, September 26, 2011

New ‘Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering and Science’

This is a weekly post by Nidhal Guessoum (see his earlier posts here). Nidhal is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah and is the author of Islam's Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science.
I would like to report on the recent creation of a new journal on “transdisciplinarity in science and engineering”, led by Prof. Basarab Nicolescu and Professor Vistrian Maties as the Editors in Chief. For full disclosure, I must note that I am one of the “area editors” of the journal, though this is certainly not the reason I am publicizing this new publication.
First, in case you’re confused between multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity, let me clarify the latter a bit, the term and concept being rather technical and largely unfamiliar to many among the educated public. I’ll leave aside the other terms, both because they are unrelated to our topic here and because they are more familiar to people and are closer to their intuitive understanding.
Transdisciplinarity, reportedly first used by Piaget, was largely brought into the scholarly discourse by Basarab Nicolescu and the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET). In a general sense, it refers to areas of research and investigation that fall between specific fields (the prefix “trans” signifying an area between two large bodies, as in “trans-Atlantic”); those are often rich areas that have not been investigated properly as they do not fall under the methodologies of those well-defined bodies of research; they need to be looked at more holistically, and they deserve new approaches and paradigms. Examples of such areas include: areas of relevance to both science and art; areas of complexity between biology and consciousness; topics of science, sociology, and religion; engineering and social sciences; etc.
But Nicolescu has proposed a framework for addressing transdisciplinary questions (see his recent paper here). In his approach, transdisciplinarity rests on three principles forming its foundational methodology: 1) the world consists of multiple levels of reality; 2) adoption of a non-Aristotelian logic of “included middle”; 3) nature is intrinsically complex, and the science of complexity should be adopted and applied extensively.

There has thus been some growing interest in this new paradigm of transdisciplinarity, particularly through CIRET (above) and TheATLAS (The Academy of Transdisciplinary Learning & Advance Studies), which was founded in 2000. And it is indeed TheATLAS which is bringing out TJES, the ‘Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering and Science’.

The first issue of TJES came out several months ago; the papers can be found online, and they are very useful references, as many of them set out to explore and delineate this new paradigm of transdisciplinarity; for instance:

·      Methodology of Transdisciplinarity: Levels of Reality, Logic of the Included Middle, and Complexity, by B. Nicolescu;

·      Understanding of Transdiscipline and the Transdisciplinary Process, by A. Ertas;

·      From Transdisciplinarity to Transdisciplinary Research, by C. Pohl;

·      Designing Transdisciplinary Discovery and Innovation: Models and Tools for Dynamic Knowledge Integration, by D. Tate;

·      Results of a Survey to Identify Differences between Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research, by T. Kollman and A. Ertas;

·      Transdisciplinary System Science: Implications for Healthcare and Other Problems of Global Significance, by A. Madni.

The journal (TJES) is now inviting papers for its second issue, which is to appear before the end of the year. Areas of relevance to the journal include – but are not limited to – the following:

-       Application of philosophical foundations of transdisciplinary approaches to engineering and science;

-       lication of transdisciplinary methods and tools to scientific and engineering design, processes, and systems;

-       Models, tools, and processes for integrated problem formulation, synthesis, analysis, and design that incorporate a wide range of knowledge;

-       Applications of transdisciplinary methods for large-scale, complex problems involving multiple disciplines such as sustainability research, disaster management, biomimetic systems design, transdisciplinary cognitive integration, systems engineering and management, and other research topics that cross diverse disciplines;

-       Studies of the applicability and adoption of transdisciplinary approaches for engineering and scientific systems in industry and academia.

Paper submissions proceed through TheATLAS’s online manuscript submission and review system


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