The Shifting Plate Tetonics of the Human Sciences 

This is a wonderful account by Felicity Callard and Des Fitzgerald, in their new book on interdisciplinarity, concerning the radical restructuring of academic labour that is currently underway within the university. I’ve come at this from a different angle, specifically the implications of data science for the social sciences, but in the last year or so I’ve begun to understand this as part of a much more all encompassing process with radical implications for what scholarship will mean in the 21st century. They describe it much more incisively, as well as artfully, then I have been able to:

The more we wander down strange interdisciplinary tracks, the more apparent it becomes to us that being disciplined isn’t playing it safe: the truth is that staying within the narrow epistemological confines of –for example –mid-twentieth-century sociology, while it may produce short-term gains, is not, in fact, the best way to guarantee a career in the twenty-first century (and we mean ‘career’ in its most capacious sense here: we are not using it with the assumption that everyone wants a permanent post at a university, but to express an idea that many would like to find some way to advance their projects, ideas, and so on). The plate tectonics of the human sciences are shifting: we here describe our own forays into one small, circumscribed niche between the social and natural sciences, but expand this horizon to epigenetics, to the emergence of the human microbiome, to all kinds of translational research in mental health, to ‘big data’ and the devices that append it, to the breakdown of the barrier between creative practices and research, and to a whole host of other collapsing dichotomies, and it becomes apparent that ‘neuro-social science’ is only one local effect of a much broader reverberation.

A lot is up for grabs under these circumstances. The Digital Social Science Forum is a long term project intended to intervene in and shape this terrain.