Navigating the in-between spaces- growing designers of the future using an interdisciplinary approach

DS 76: Proceedings of E&PDE 2013, the 15th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin, Ireland, 05-06.09.2013

Year: 2013
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: Ekins, Ray; Timmins, Bernard; Timmins, Fiona; O’Rourke, Pearl; Coyle, Eugene; Long, Siobhan
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1: Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland; 2: Trinity College Dublin, Ireland; 3: Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland; 4: Enable Ireland
Section: Multidisciplinarity
Page(s): 576-580
ISBN: 978-1-904670-42-1


Background: This paper concerns a case study of the supervision of one research project aimed to develop, demonstrate and evaluate a new framework for customisable assistive technology (AT) which involved experts working with AT and users with disabilities. As this research occurs “in between” disciplines, it required an innovative and interdisciplinary approach, with an ultimate merger between nursing and engineering disciplines. Aim: To describe the current understandings of this interdisciplinary approach to PhD supervision, outlining the risks and benefits of such initiatives. Methods: A literature search of CINAHL, ERIC and Google using the key term “interdisciplinary research” revealed seven relevant sources. Findings: Findings revealed that interdisciplinary research is popular contemporarily and addresses societal needs. However no consensus exists regarding definitions of interdisciplinary research. It is generally accepted as an integrated approach to research and supervision, between distinct disciplines. It differs from multidisciplinary research by virtue of its overt integration of approaches, understandings and methods. However the conceptual understanding of health sciences, engineering, disability services (and other disciplines) as distinct disciplines is unclear and further complicates the blurred boundaries and confusion that is inherent within interdisciplinary research. The literature reveals that this research is often a lonely venture, as both students and supervisors navigate uncharted territory. Identified risks include difficulty defining a focus, isolation and concerns about intellectual property rights. These are outweighed by the benefits such as increased satisfaction and practical relevance of the research.

Keywords: Design, participation, interdisciplinary research.


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