Interdisciplinary knowledge production

Meta project: methods and evaluation of interdisciplinary research

This work package is a ‘meta project’ that develops a novel interdisciplinary approach within obesity research and further analyzes organizational dimensions of interdisciplinary research with the perspective of developing ‘best practices’ in this area. It combines ‘Science, technology and society (STS)’ approaches with anthropological approaches and includes scientists form all of the involved work packages and disciplines as well as the staff of the Research Coordination Unit.


The overall aim is dual, as it focuses both on the research object of obesity and the research processes of interdisciplinarity. The objectives are thus

  • To explore and fully utilize the knowledge potential provided by research on obesity by developing novel methods to integrate the biomedical, psychological and socio-cultural data collected in work package 1-4. Thus, work package 5 supports development of better tools for explanation, health promotion, prevention, and treatment of obesity.
  • To analyzes normative and organizational dimensions of the processes of interdisciplinary research. Thus, rather than assuming that interdisciplinary synergy will spontaneously occur, work package 5 specifically investigates the interdisciplinary processes in order to ensure excellent collaboration and research outcome.


Fruitful interdisciplinary research demands careful organization and management (Buanes & Jentoft 2009, Rhoten & Parker 2004, Dodge 2008) as the combination of methods, knowledge and data requires development of specific approaches, methodologies and processes (Baumwol & Mortimer et al. 2011, Catney & Lerner et al. 2009). The literature on interdisciplinarity lacks more specific and practice oriented knowledge about when utility of methods, results and claims from one science may become meaningful resources for other scientific disciplines.

Building on results of interdisciplinary work and working relationships in the Food, Fitness & Pharma initiative, Governing Obesity understands interdisciplinary research as a practical challenge (Jespersen & Bønnelycke et al. in press) and through work package 5 it will be studied with an action oriented approach (Lyall & Meagher 2012, Lyall 2011, Weingart & Stehr 2000).


Work package 5 establishes an overall framework which facilitates a number of explorative experiments with various methods combining relevant empirical data from the clinical as well as the social and societal WPs.

Explorative experiments should be understood as events which gather researchers, data, methods and technologies in order to investigate the creative and innovative potential in particular collaborative setups ( Lyall & Meagher 2012, Horst 2011, Horst & Michael 2011). Each of the explorative experiments will be designed to address specific methodological and organizational challenges experienced in the other work packages. As such work package 5 will integrate research problems, data and knowledge resources from all work packages.

Interviews, questionnaires, observation studies and active interaction with scientists in all work packages will form the basis of scientific meta-analyses drawing on scientific disciplines such as Science & Technology Studies.

From the outset, the project will focus on the following dimensions, but due to the practical and processual design of this work package, the list of dimensions is expected to develop:

  • Methodological conceptual review: Mapping of different uses and understandings of the core concepts of intervention and compliance.
  • Method development: Co-design of interventions in order to integrate data collection and analysis across different disciplines with the aim of creating a fundamental interdisciplinary understanding of obesity as a research object.
  • Data-mining and interdisciplinary publications: Development of analytical approaches and concepts to utilize and merge existing data across various disciplines with work package 2, 3 and 4 as cases.
  • Norms and values in interdisciplinary research: Understanding the different disciplinary perceptions of governance and responsibility in relation to obesity, and a specific investigation of the productive tensions in the ways scientific disciplines engage.
  • Organization of interdisciplinary projects and research groups: Documentation of the entire project process and development of ‘best practices’ in interdisciplinary communication and organization via collaboration between work package 5 PI’s and the Research Coordination Unit (see below) resulting in joint organizational work, policy recommendations and scientific publications.

Visions for scientific and societal impact

  • To improve validity of scientific work dealing with complex problems, publications and interdisciplinary methods.
  • To develop new interdisciplinary methods, tools and models for collaborations to reinforce and advance future interdisciplinary research.
  • To strengthen the impact of the results of the other work packages in Governing Obesity and provide excellent and relevant knowledge for stakeholders.