Evaluation of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research: a literature review

Am J Prev Med. 2008 Aug;35(2 Suppl):S116-23. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.05.010.


Interdisciplinarity has become a widespread mantra for research, accompanied by a growing body of publications. Evaluation, however, remains one of the least-understood aspects. This review of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research evaluation categorizes lessons from the emergent international literature on the topic reviewed in 2007. It defines parallels between research performance and evaluation, presents seven generic principles for evaluation, and reflects in the conclusion on changing connotations of the underlying concepts of discipline, peer, and measurement. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research performance and evaluation are both generative processes of harvesting, capitalizing, and leveraging multiple expertise. Individual standards must be calibrated, and tensions among different disciplinary, professional, and interdisciplinary approaches carefully managed in balancing acts that require negotiation and compromise. Readiness levels are strengthened by antecedent conditions that are flexible enough to allow multiple pathways of integration and collaboration. In both cases, as well, new epistemic communities must be constructed and new cultures of evidence produced. The multidisciplinary-interdisciplinary-transdisciplinary research environment spans a wide range of contexts. Yet seven generic principles provide a coherent framework for thinking about evaluation: (1) variability of goals; (2) variability of criteria and indicators; (3) leveraging of integration; (4) interaction of social and cognitive factors in collaboration; (5) management, leadership, and coaching; (6) iteration in a comprehensive and transparent system; and (7) effectiveness and impact.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Program Evaluation
  • Research / standards
  • Research Personnel / organization & administration*