Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC ISSUE: Interdisciplinary Progress in Environmental Science & Management

Embodied interdisciplinarity: what is the role of polymaths in environmental research?


a1 NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik EH26 0QB, UK

a2 Forest Research, Centre for Human and Ecological Sciences, Forest Research Northern Research Station, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9SY, UK


Interdisciplinarity can be interpreted broadly as an active, multi-faceted learning process between researchers from different disciplines to create a common ground for a special purpose. Interdisciplinary approaches are regarded as necessary in environmental research, especially in view of global environmental change. However, some argue there is a lack of genuine interdisciplinarity in environmental research. Polymaths can play a potentially important role in environmental research. Environmental polymaths can enhance the effectiveness of interdisciplinarity through their knowledge and understanding of different disciplinary languages, epistemologies and methodologies, and as such, should be acknowledged more explicitly in interdisciplinary discussions.

(Online publication July 30 2010)