Erin Leahey (University of Arizona)
6 February 2024 @ 12:30 - 13:30
- Past event
How Audience Characteristics Shape the Use of Interdisciplinary Research
Abstract. Surprisingly, interest and investments in interdisciplinary research (IDR) has persisted over the past decade. Prior research has found that interdisciplinary scholarship has greater impact (as gauged by citations) than more mono-disciplinary scholarship. To better align empirical work with theories of innovation and science policy’s expectations that interdisciplinary scholarship will be transformative, we examine another outcome as well: whether a paper is highly disruptive, shifting focus away from prior work and onto itself, thereby rerouting knowledge streams. The mechanisms that interest us pertain not only to the nature and production of interdisciplinary work (e.g., is it multi-faceted, often led by an epistemically diverse team), but also to the reception of interdisciplinary work by audiences. Audiences matter, we contend — especially the degree to which they themselves are diverse and/or interconnected. Applying these ideas to a large sample of U.S.-based scientists and their scholarly papers, we find that more interdisciplinary papers have higher impact and are more likely to be highly disruptive. Audience characteristics typically augment IDR’s positive effect on impact and disruption, except that audience interconnectedness hinders IDR’s likelihood of becoming a highly disruptive work.