Keynote Speech – Zhiwu CHEN
- Quantitative historical research is a very typical interdisciplinary field.
- Interdisciplinary publications would be much more difficult than specializing in a particular area, especially for publications on mainstream journals in academia.
- So I would advise you to first focus more on one particular area, and do your interdisciplinary research in terms of your own interests afterward.
Speech by Prof Huaming Qu
- Interdisciplinary research and education is defined by these characteristics
- Radical collaboration, anti-disciplinary, undirected research, serendipity by design, “demo or die”
- Closeness: spatially close to each other.
- Transparency: see what others are doing.
- Mash-up of industry, academia, government, and the big world beyond campus.
- Learning by doing team-oriented, multidisciplinary real-world projects.
- New pedagogy is driven by IT technology (data science, AI, etc.)
Speech by Associate Prof Fei Yan
The discipline of historical sociology may face criticism from the fields of sociology and history at once, due to things like conflicting research approaches.
Historical sociology & Big Data: For instance, historical sociology can benefit from the use of big data. With data, we can conduct quantitative historical analysis, using and dig deeper into mechanisms that traditional historiography cannot go into. For example, the spread effect of suicide is generally thought to be related to the media communications but was never tested at the grand scale. Through the use of big data research, it has also been shown that the spread effect of suicide is indeed correlated with media communications.
Historical Sociology & Literature: We can use literary texts as evidence, combining them with theories learned in historical sociology (e.g. gender desires, the production of violence, the wounding of memory, etc.) to make an interdisciplinary analysis of the same social issue expressed in different theoretical dimensions/paradigms.
Historical sociology & urban planning: the more important vehicle for urban planning is the inhabitants, not the fancy buildings, and the only way to give residents a sense of belonging is to enable them to feel a degree of human connection. An example is the study of Beijing’s farmers’ markets, including the vegetable vendors’ presentation of their self-identity in short videos.
Speech by Prof Bo Li
Prof Li is involved in researching trustworthy machine learning in the physical world, and has been involved in combining machine learning with healthcare
Her research focuses on better prediction/detection of cancel cells through integration with computing.
During Covid, her research topic was: finding the most important information in an efficient time frame, building knowledge models, filtering information and providing biologists a more effective direction of their research.
Machine learning has also been involved in: Home robots: helping elderly people living alone to detect their health and mental states, and alleviate their negative emotions.
After individual speeches, a panel discussion was held between the panellists:
- Q： How can we reconcile the differences
between subjects during interdisciplinary research collaboration?
- Prof Li： The unification/increased understanding of subject-specific languages used in different disciplines would better help collaboration.
- Prof Qu： Experts from different disciplines should learn from each others’ strong points to offset the limits of their own subjects, as well the integration of each discipline’s research approach with each other can solve problems more efficiently in a shorter period.
- Q: How did
interdisciplinary study evolve to become what it is today?
- Prof Qu: Trial and error in the early days helped
- Prof Li: The communication between different disciplines, would have allowed people to naturally realize the necessity of combing different disciplines in solving specific and real-world questions.
- How do we
balance depth and breadth of interdisciplinary studies
- Prof Yan: To discuss this question, we need to discuss what kind of disciplines can be combined? First, the disciplines need a common ground for researchers in different disciplines in terms of research topics. For scholars, they need the courage to collaborate with other disciplines leaving the ‘comfort zone’ of their own research.
- Prof Qu: We do not want scholars/professors to produce shallow interdisciplinary research outputs. There are two criteria for evaluating the research capacity and output of interdisciplinary scholars/professors: to be interdisciplinary, one must first have one’s own ‘base’ and be at the top of that field before transcending boundaries, or one’s interdisciplinary research output needs to be highly influential.
- Prof Li: the purpose of interdisciplinary research is not to generalise or to be shallow.
- Q: How to
define the boundaries between disciplines? Will they be gradually blurred in
- Prof Qu: Defining these boundaries is like a pendulum, when old classifications of disciplines fail to meet the needs of society, new ones will emerge.
- Q: As
scholars and students, how do we balance between interdisciplinary reach and
concentration on one field?
- Qu: You have to figure out the reason why you would like to learn different disciplines. Is because of your personal interests and talent, or of ‘involution’?
- Yan: For undergraduates, I would advise you to be open-minded and get to know a wide range of disciplines; but for Phd students, it is about being in a very specialized field; for scholars, we need to ‘survive’ in our own research area before we can have time and capacity to do interdisciplinary research.