1.1 Introducing the Background Context

1.1.1 Interdisciplinary Research as a Mainstream Research Endeavour

Interdisciplinary research has been advocated as the zenith of research practice for many years, quite often in direct response to questions that cannot be answered (or even preliminarily investigated) by disciplines working separately (Jasanoff 2013). Indeed, common arguments for advocating interdisciplinarity often centre on fixing the ‘poor connectivity’ between disciplines, whether this implicitly/explicitly relates more to the knowledges or the knowledge-producing communities that map across such disciplinary classifications. The theory goes that interdisciplinarity fills knowledge gaps by improving disciplinary connectivity, thereby ensuring a “better integration of existing knowledge” (Hulme 2018, p. 333, emphasis in original). From there, claims that interdisciplinarity provides a more complete—perhaps even ‘holistic’ or ‘whole systems’—perspective therefore often ensue.

Calls for doing interdisciplinary research have become so widespread and pervasive that doing and advocating for interdisciplinarity now very much occupies mainstream discourse—as shown by various contributions from researchers (e.g. Irwin et al. 2018; Nature 2015), educators (e.g. European University Association 2017; University of Essex 2020), funders (e.g. British Academy 2016; European Commission 2019; UKRI 2021), policy actors (e.g. HM Government 2017; Pellerin-Carlin et al. 2018), and related multi-stakeholder associations (e.g. Science Europe 2019) alike. Given this widespread multi-stakeholder agreement and its emergence “as a political preoccupation” (Barry and Born 2013, p. i), it is then no surprise that there have been calls for systemic, cultural changes that better enable the development and maintenance of interdisciplinarity (e.g. Caniglia et al. 2021).

Such is the widespread institutional support for interdisciplinarity that we believe scholars have become somewhat numb to the public support for interdisciplinarity. Essentially, explicit support and interest for interdisciplinarity is so commonplace that it has been rendered almost invisible or at least significantly backgrounded. Indeed, we would argue that vocal supporters of interdisciplinarity are rarely credited or congratulated—unlike they perhaps would have been 10–20 years ago—for endorsing or even directly funding interdisciplinary research. This is, of course, progress.

As part of this move towards greater interdisciplinarity in research and innovation, there have been explicit calls for interdisciplinary ambitions to account for the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH ) approaches (Pedersen 2016). Indeed, this cause has been internationally championed at the broader SSH level by, for example, the European Alliance for Social Sciences and HumanitiesFootnote 1 (EASSH ) and the Shaping Interdisciplinary Practices in EuropeFootnote 2 (SHAPE-ID ) EU Horizon 2020 project. Similarly, the EU platform for energy-related SSHFootnote 3 has also argued for SSH to be better integrated within the Framework Programmes of the EU (Foulds et al. 2020; Robison and Foulds 2019, 2021), as well as called for deeper reflections as to the roles afforded to SSH in interdisciplinary research, including considering its implications for the policy advice being generated (Foulds and Robison 2018; Royston and Foulds 2021). Such calls are built on the foundations of a range of works that demonstrate the underutilisation of SSH within (energy) research (e.g. Foulds and Christensen 2016; Sovacool 2014; Sovacool et al. 2015).

It is therefore clear that the SSH are being pursued directly as part of a particular configuration of interdisciplinarity that traverses both the Natural/Technical Sciences and the SSH. We believe that this pursuit is widely understood and observed by research stakeholders, although we strongly contend that the implications of this configuration (which funders and other actors alike are pushing) have not been given the attention it deserves. For instance, how may Natural/Technical Scientists imagine the role of SSH in their projects, and vice versa, and with what effects for a collaboration’s power dynamics? How can knowledge be translated to become credible among distinct and hitherto separated cultures of scientific knowledge production? Indeed, the implications of such a marriage is a central thread of this book that we return to at various stages. Beyond this though, and aside from being a key part of our object of study (interdisciplinarity), we argue that the SSH themselves also have much to offer to the very study approaches utilised—including, for instance, positionality, infrastructures and epistemics of knowledge production, movement of knowledge, dynamics of appropriation, different disciplinary interpretations of scientific findings, and the importance of organising around disciplinary collectives. It is exactly in these respects that our next sub-section discusses our proposed role of Science and Technology Studies (STS) in better understanding the dynamics and experiences underlying research practice.

1.1.2 What Science and Technology Studies’ Sociotechnical Underpinnings Have to Offer

In the previous sub-section, we made clear that calls and some structural support for interdisciplinary research exist within the mainstream management and delivery of research systems. We also discussed the role that SSH can play in shedding more light on the social dynamics of interdisciplinary research. In this sub-section, though, we take this further by specifically drilling into what the underutilised STS can offer the study of interdisciplinary practice. Not only is this the core rationale upon which this book is based, but this sub-section also implicitly represents this book’s first call (of many) for those leading interdisciplinary project evaluations to directly engage with STS ideas. But first, it is necessary herein to step back and consider the origins of STS and, in particular, what STS itself offers through its common point of departure.

STS is a large and an increasingly popular and heterogeneous area of research, and while attempts to define the field for relative outsiders exist (e.g. Sovacool et al. 2020; STS Helsinki 2021), it is not in our interest to develop a concise designation here. Indeed, we contend that any such fixed designation would not serve the diverse corners of this area. In general terms, though, STS is unique in its interest in the interplay between science, technology, and society, in a manner that pays specific conceptual and empirical interest to the actual content and processes of science and technology in the making. This focus remains unique among social scientific studies, many of which still treat the social and technical aspects of science and technology as a binary and, in doing so, narrow the Social Sciences to the study of ‘the social’ dimensions of these matters. STS takes the binary distinction to be a fallacy, hence the common way to term its focus as being sociotechnical (Silvast et al. 2013). Therefore, to reiterate: being sociotechnical “is not the same as either just having social and technical researchers in the same research team or in having researchers trained in both disciplinary routes” (Cooper 2017, p. 115). Whilst these may indeed be happening within sociotechnical studies, actually being sociotechnical requires a fundamental, ontological appreciation of the coproduction of the social and the technical. For a more detailed review of the STS field, we recommend one of the recent handbooks, such as Felt et al. (2016).

Within these terms of reference, there is inevitably a range of STS interests and perspectives in play around the roles of science and technology in practice and normatively in society. In this book, though, we are particularly inspired by the Science Studies component of STS, which has for decades explored the social construction of (scientific) knowledge (e.g. Hacking 2000; Knorr Cetina 1999; Latour and Woolgar 1979; Pinch and Bijker 1984). STS itself has some of its origins in studies of professional scientists collaborating with one another in Natural Science laboratories, for example, and thus if we assume current societies to be ruled by expertise and knowledge, it is possible to start utilising such insights (previously used around, for instance, the knowledge society; Knorr Cetina 1999, Chapter 10) for investigating the knowledge-object relationships of interdisciplinary practice too.

Indeed, given the interest of STS in how “sets of relations” (Law 1991, p. 18) shape knowledge creation, for example, STS is no stranger to the study of interdisciplinarity. In fact, the reflexivity advocated for by STS scholars has been put to good use in considering how STS itself emerged as a discipline. For example, both Mitcham (2003) and Sørensen (2012) discussed the interdisciplinary ‘disciplining’ of STS to the extent that it became an interdiscipline, and Cozzens (2001) similarly argued that a unifying core of ‘STS thought’ could only ever exist once STS researchers (themselves usually from different disciplines) were able to leave their past disciplinary baggage behind them. Moreover, in preceding these discussions, there were even questions as to whether interdisciplinarity could be feasibly achieved within STS, given its disciplinary positioning and organisation (Bauer 1990). It is therefore evident that whilst STS explorations into interdisciplinarity remain in the minority, STS does have a track record of asking the deeper questions of interdisciplinarity.

To be clear, we assert that an STS perspective cannot be treated as a single entity, given that the interdiscipline is dispersed and itself positioned across and between disciplines. Here, through this book, we adopt the following considerations from it:

  • That SSH studies of interdisciplinarity should focus on the actual content of scientific research in large-scale, collaborative projects.

  • That this requires a set of research methods that capture this actual content, including conventional qualitative interviews and fieldwork, alongside any methods that dig into the mundane everyday dynamics of project planning and implementation.

  • That while we detail the inner life of (interdisciplinary) projects, this content of science—including the ways in which projects are organised—has clear normative implications. Therefore, the study of a project’s inner life does not only stop at its situated practices, but extends to the institutional terms and and contexts of actions that those practices sit within.

STS therefore offers tools to enable a deeper unpacking of interdisciplinarity in the making. In using STS to dig deeper into the more mundane everydayness of doing interdisciplinarity, a richer picture is generated that allows one to move beyond more simplistic discussions of identifying ‘barriers’, ‘obstacles’, ‘challenges’, and so on. It is these more simplistic discussions that can be overly reductive and linear, for instance, through implying that their identified barriers need only be jumped over or busted through to neatly ‘fix’ centuries-old institutions and ensure that interdisciplinary efforts will prosper (c.f. Shove 1998). Indeed, over the last 20 years, there has been a plethora of studies that have focused explicitly on identifying the barriers to doing interdisciplinarity (e.g. Brewer 1999; Campbell 2005; Cohen et al. 2021; Hein et al. 2018; Kelly et al. 2019; Lyall and Meagher 2012; Morse et al. 2007; Wallace and Clark 2017). Such studies are often situated within a wider descriptive convention that lacks a conceptual bedrock to their discussion of interdisciplinarity. We assert that this then commonly leads to the same sorts of generic difficulties and recommendations being reproduced relating to, for example, disciplinary languages, communication strategies, balancing expertise, resource burdens, and career trajectories. Whilst quite often rich and undoubtedly interesting in isolation, we strongly argue that such interdisciplinary studies are reaching their saturation in terms of their contributions. Our collective understanding of interdisciplinarity is not advancing at the rate that it once was. STS can help rectify this by filling the current conceptual void and by asking questions that have not yet been sufficiently explored.

Fundamentally: SSH has much to contribute to the study of interdisciplinarity, including (but not limited to) how SSH themselves are addressed within interdisciplinary approaches. STS specifically offers a solid, underutilised basis for moving beyond a mere descriptive account of the experiences encountered. Connecting said experiences within and through such conceptual tools allows scholars to speak more to, and learn from, other contributions in the literature, and, as such, better interpret interdisciplinary data at hand. In this vein, it is the drawing together of STS-led concepts that this book argues for and evidences the merits of—we now discuss this, in the context of this book’s broader contributions and positionings, in the next section.

1.2 Introducing This Book

1.2.1 A Position Statement on Notions of Interdisciplinarity

To make clear exactly what we mean by ‘interdisciplinarity’ or ‘interdisciplinary research’ in this book, we now outline our positions on key boundaries and scope issues. This position statement outlines where we position ourselves amongst the diverse approaches to interdisciplinarity—including, for instance, what ‘interdisciplinarity’ even means and how it is operationalised as an object of study. Specifically, in this sub-section, we present five positions in turn, which together form the foundations of and offer context for many of this book’s arguments. Position #1: Definitions of Disciplines Should Account for the Interconnectedness, Porosity, and Inevitable Subjectivity of Their Knowledges and Knowledge-Making Communities

In considering our position on the boundaries and relations between disciplines, we believe it is important to first reflect on what a discipline is. Indeed, we contend that works on interdisciplinarity rarely contain any definition of a discipline—although perhaps this is to be expected, given that the rationale for these works is in transgressing disciplines. Interdisciplinary scholars may therefore be fundamentally critical of disciplines and hence potentially feel that they do not need to define what they critique. Whatever the reasoning, any critique or discussion of interdisciplinarity will suffer if one is not clear on one’s terms of reference (e.g. scope, boundaries, and purpose) for a discipline.

In reflecting on what a discipline is, we found Jacobs’ (2013, p. 28) discussion instructive: “A discipline is a form of social organization that generates new ideas and research findings, certifies this knowledge, and in turn teaches this subject matter”. In drawing parallels between defining disciplines and defining professions, Jacobs developed this further through discussion of, for example, scholarly associations, conference participation, publishing strategies, career pathways, and responsibilities for handing over to the next generation, that together socially organise institutional disciplinary groupings.

What is also clear from Jacobs’ (2013) discussion is the importance of acknowledging the messy interconnections between disciplines. Indeed, whilst disciplines can provide useful proxies for different ways of generating, interpreting, and applying knowledges, we should not obsess about them to the point where the porosity of disciplinary boundaries is forgotten. Knowledges and their associated institutional structures cannot be compartmentalised:

[K]nowledge is transgressive. Nobody, in my awareness, has succeeded anywhere for very long in containing knowledge. It seeps through institutional structures like water through pores of a membrane. As with liquids in membranes, knowledge seeps in both directions. (Gibbons and Nowotny 2001, p. 68)

Rigidly drawing boundaries between academic disciplines is not always possible and/or useful. Discussion of interdisciplinarity would therefore only benefit from acknowledging that no objective categorisation will do justice to the disciplinary complexity and evolution in play. Indeed, we welcome the inclusion of disciplines—which are, themselves, constructions—that are self-assigned and self-identified. We do not believe it productive to rigidly apply top-down classifications of what a discipline can and should be, as it would close off possibilities of including new, emerging disciplines—which themselves may be hybrid disciplines (or ‘interdisciplines’) that may have arisen through a common set of interdisciplinary research interests (e.g. Gender Studies and Urban Studies).

Furthermore, there are many intersecting scales and dimensions as to how disciplines are organised. For example, is Environmental Social Science a discipline in itself, or does it just constitute part of Environmental Science? Contestation around disciplinary labels is inevitable, and this is wholly appropriate—it could never be possible to achieve consensus, not least because disciplines change, evolve, emerge, and fade, too. This certainly fits with the second author’s experiences of, for example, producing disciplinary lists of researchers (e.g. SHAPE ENERGY 2017) and analysing open survey questions that ask for disciplinary associations (e.g. Foulds et al. 2017, p. 17).

An implication of acknowledging this interconnectedness between disciplines is that it directly problematises the assumption that the adding together of different, so-called ‘distinct’ disciplines will objectively add up to a ‘complete’ picture. Indeed, it is often assumed that interdisciplinarity represents the completion of a “jigsaw” (Castree and Waitt 2017, p. 3), where the connection of new disciplinary additions supposedly reveals more of “an ‘objective world’ awaiting discovery and accurate reporting” (Castree and Waitt 2017, p. 3). Thus, seeing disciplines in the way that we have set out above, then, has implications for our expectations of what interdisciplinary research can realistically achieve. Position #2: We Focus Primarily on Interdisciplinary Problem-Focused Research and Not on Interdisciplinary General Education

To borrow from Klein’s (1990) terms, the ‘interdisciplinary general education’ (p. 156) form of interdisciplinarity—which targets the pre-disciplinary mode of understanding—is not where we concern ourselves in this book. Instead, we primarily focus on what Klein (1990) refers to as ‘interdisciplinary problem-focused research’ (p. 121), specifically related to furthering societies’ response to challenges associated with low-carbon sociotechnical transformations.

For this form of interdisciplinarity, and as discussed by Mitcham (2003), problem-focused interdisciplinarity has tended to originate via either (1) research-producing communities being interested in and subsequently posing new cognitive questions that span across disciplines or (2) an interest in generating (often technical) solutions for practical problems facing societies, which may or may not be pushed by the problem-holders themselves (e.g. policy actors).

As our Position #1 implied, the social organisation of disciplines cannot be neatly separated into different institutional activities. Yet, despite this, we believe it important to be clear on whether the ambitions underlying one’s interdisciplinarity is more/less grounded in problem-focused interdisciplinary research or within educational approaches to broadening understanding (especially if said interdisciplinarity is acting as an object of research in itself). Our implicit focus on interdisciplinary problem-focused research therefore makes clear that our discussion of interdisciplinarity in this book inevitably contains certain normative dimensions. Position #3: The Full Spectrum of Multidisciplinary, Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity Should Be Part of a Broad Definition of Interdisciplinarity That Covers the Range of Crossdisciplinary Research Practice

It has long been said that interdisciplinarity lacks a coherent, single definition (Salter and Hearn 1996). As Callard and Fitzgerald (2015, p. 4) put it, “interdisciplinarity is a term that everyone invokes and none understands”. We certainly note that multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are also used frequently, and are often conflated and/or used interchangeably with interdisciplinarity. In distinguishing between each of these terms, we note the following (inspired by Klein [2010] in particular):

  • Multidisciplinary research: parallel endeavours from different disciplines, which do not have (or at least do not prioritise) integration.

  • Interdisciplinary research: integrated perspectives from different disciplines that add up to more than the sum of their parts.

  • Transdisciplinary research: a deeper degree of integration than interdisciplinarity, to the point where different disciplines are more deeply ‘fused’, leading to clear opposition and/or a new alternative to established disciplinary conventions. These new conventions may often involve the pursuit of normative goals, based around real-world problems (Lawrence and Després 2004). It is in this way that the starting point for transdisciplinarity is sometimes talked about as not being dependent on pre-existing disciplines, unlike interdisciplinarity which does firmly start from those pre-existing disciplinary standpoints and considers how best integration can be organised between them.

Some use the additional term of ‘crossdisciplinarity’, but we argue that all of interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity are forms of crossdisciplinary research practice. Whilst literature around these terms have been useful in certain respects, as part of carving out deeper reflection as to one’s positionality on the wide spectrum of crossdisciplinary research practice, we firmly agree with Petts et al. (2008), who note that “at its weakest, interdisciplinarity constitutes barely more than cooperation, while at its strongest, it lays the foundation for a more transformative recasting of disciplines” (Petts et al. 2008, p. 597). We therefore side with scholars such as Barry et al. (2008, p. 28), who “take ‘interdisciplinarity’ as a generic term for this spectrum, while signalling salient issues from the definitional debate as they arise”. A lot of what we discuss throughout this book on interdisciplinarity is therefore relevant too for the debates on transdisciplinarity and—although perhaps to a lesser extent due to the lower levels of integration—multidisciplinarity. All of these crossdisciplinary endeavours share common ideals and aspirations: to bring monodisciplinary communities together in novel ways to generate fruitful and integrated insights.

We thus continue to use the term ‘interdisciplinarity’ through this book as a catch-all term for crossdisciplinary research practice. When we do use the terms ‘transdisciplinarity’ or ‘multidisciplinarity’, we do so intentionally as part of emphasising a particular point—usually in contrast to what would be the case for ‘typical’ interdisciplinarity. Position #4: Interdisciplinarity Does Not Only Occur in the Space Between More Technical/Natural and More Social Scientific Disciplines

Putting aside debates on the spectrum of disciplinary integration that may occur, at its most basic level it is important to note that ‘interdisciplinarity’ (in our catch-all sense) is simply about bringing two or more disciplines together. As such, no disciplines have exclusive rights on participating in interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity can occur, for instance, within the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH ), between, say, Sociology and History, or it could bridge across an SSH discipline and a Technical/Natural Science discipline, say, between Human Geography and Civil Engineering—either is just as valid.

We make this point to ensure lines of enquiry remain open to the dynamics that are co-produced by bringing together the various combinations of both ‘near’ and ‘far’ disciplines. Each discipline will imagine another discipline in particular ways, and thereby come to expect certain outcomes, and indeed it is based on those expectations that different configurations of interdisciplinarity will feel more or less comfortable to prospective participants.

This said, we do acknowledge that interdisciplinarity is predominantly regarded by funders and policymakers as being a bridge between far disciplines; in this case, between the more technical/natural scientific and the more social scientific approaches. For example, the EU has focused on ‘mainstreaming’ SSH disciplines across all of its Horizon 2020–funded research on ‘societal challenges’ (Kania and Bucksch 2020), supporting its underlying view that interdisciplinarity is a means to overcome the non-technical (SSH ) barriers for scientific solutions to prosper (c.f. Guy and Shove 2000). It is therefore in prioritising the implications of these agendas—and in unpicking the ground-level experiences of their implementation—as to why the sorts of interdisciplinarity covered in this book predominantly relate to the integration of the (energy-related) Technical/Natural Sciences on the one hand and the (energy-related) SSH on the other hand. Position #5: Interdisciplinarity Can Include, But Does Not Necessitate, the Involvement of External Stakeholders

Discussions with colleagues have regularly involved suggestions that multi-stakeholder engagement represented interdisciplinarity. Seemingly, such arguments were based on the assumption that working across sectors was the same as working across disciplines. We would strongly argue that this is not the case; a sector should not be conflated as being equal to a discipline, regardless of any parallels that can be drawn between professional and disciplinary jurisdictions.

Nevertheless, we do note that certain disciplinary configurations of interdisciplinarity are more open to multi-stakeholder involvement than others, especially when compared to many monodisciplinary approaches. We also note that different disciplinary configurations and forms of multi-stakeholder engagement will bring with them different norms and conventions for working with stakeholders (and this is reflected in our examples later in this book). Such considerations matter in making the point that interdisciplinarity can welcome, but does certainly not necessarily require, stakeholder engagement.

It is certainly true that the crossdisciplinary approaches typically termed as being transdisciplinary would require the active participation of different stakeholders (Winskel 2018), but we argue that integrating stakeholders into one’s plans is not in itself interdisciplinary.

1.2.2 Headline Contributions: Aim and Scope of This Book

The aim of this book is to develop an STS framework for examining interdisciplinarity in the making. In fulfilling this aim, we make four contributions, which we now briefly discuss in turn.

First and foremost to our core aim, we provide a Sociology of Interdisciplinarity , where we detail a new framework that is of use both to those new to interdisciplinarity (in all its various configurations and guises) and to those who have been working interdisciplinarily for many years. Fundamentally, we put the spotlight on overlooked issues that have not yet entered mainstream discourse on interdisciplinarity—whether in, among others, researcher, funder, or policy communities. Our framework is succinctly based around six key dimensions. There is much to be gained by stepping back to sociologically consider the collective commonalities of (interdisciplinary) research practice.

Second, this Sociology of Interdisciplinarity is primarily inspired by the work of STS literatures. We use STS to unpack interdisciplinary research in practice and explain its successes and failures sociologically. We strongly contend that STS has considerable potential for developing one’s understanding of interdisciplinarity, not least because it has a proven track record of studying the co-evolutions of professions and professional practice within the messy entanglements of the social and the material (e.g. Knorr Cetina 1999; Latour and Woolgar 1979). Such studies range, for example, across various professional domains: scientific laboratories (e.g. Latour and Woolgar 1979), domestication of new technologies (e.g. Lie and Sørensen 1996), and the biographies of artefacts (e.g. Hyysalo 2021), to name only a few. Using STS as the foundations to our framework also ensures a consistent, and obviously appropriate, sociotechnical ontology for further dialogue on interdisciplinarity.

Indeed, whilst there has been some discussion of the normative role that interdisciplinary research plays as part of a “logic of ontology” (Barry et al. 2008, p. 25) that aims to drive ontological change in/across existing disciplines, there has been very little (public) discussion on the ontological logics that underlie the research focused on interdisciplinary practice itself. This lack of explicit ontological consideration and/or foregrounding is symptomatic of interdisciplinary studies focusing too much on, for example, debating taxonomies, describing barriers, producing generic recommendations, or considering interdisciplinarity only as a social problem. We argue that the conceptual underpinnings behind studies of interdisciplinarity should be placed within the broader SSH debates on the fundamentals of what makes up social order and governs social action. Adopting a consistent ontological line, with support from its associated conceptual tools, will ultimately allow for a richer discussion on interdisciplinarity, and it is in this regard that we present STS as an underutilised option.

Third, we apply our Sociology of Interdisciplinarity framework to matters of (interdisciplinary) energy research. Indeed, during the last decade, the ideal of interdisciplinary research has enjoyed strong support in energy research (Winskel 2018) and among European (Kania and Bucksch 2020) and several national funding agencies (e.g. Norwegian Research Council 2018; UK Engineering and Physical Council Sciences Research 2021). This book provides a detailed STS-inspired examination of how interdisciplinary energy research has been conceived, and with what consequences and dynamics for those involved in such projects. Furthermore, as per our previous assertions for STS and interdisciplinarity more generally, we similarly contend that STS has been markedly underutilised in the study of interdisciplinarity in energy research. Indeed, STS has been used to frame questions for specific (interdisciplinary) matters on energy system transformations (e.g. Hess and Sovacool 2020; Hyysalo 2021; Hyysalo et al. 2018; Jalas et al. 2017), but it has not yet been used to investigate the interdisciplinary practice underlying the pursuit of researching those energy system transformations.

Fourth, in exploring the aforementioned issues, we will draw on rich empirics. Specifically, through Chaps. 2, 3, and 4, we bring fresh insights into the lived experiences and actual contents of large-scale, collaborative energy research projects. Through this, we delve into interdisciplinarity directly or at least consider some of the interdisciplinary struggles associated with monodisciplinarity, and thus we do not restrict ourselves to merely advocating for interdisciplinarity and/or our particular Sociology of Interdisciplinarity framework. We believe we have interesting stories to tell that can help bring our conceptual discussions to life—and this is of particular use to those readers who may be firmly interested in interdisciplinary and/or energy research, but with less of a background in STS.

Finally, in taking inspiration from MacKenzie’s (2009) introductory remarks to his own STS-focused framework, we similarly argue that our book builds up to a set of dimensions that are implicitly agreeable to STS and related critical-SSH communities, even if those dimensions are not yet widely used in the study of interdisciplinarity. Such potential agreement is perhaps inevitable given how our arguments are fundamentally linked to STS’ shared point of departure. Nevertheless, again like MacKenzie (2009, p. 4), we appreciate that the approach we construct and advocate through this book is inevitably “idiosyncratic” and “‘incomplete”, and we would therefore not wish to “foist” our ideas onto our colleagues. Instead, we hope that our contributions represent the start of further work in this area; this book is not intended to close down debate and discussion (as, e.g. a definitive end-point), but rather to prompt critique, extension, and further empirical consideration from others.

1.2.3 Structure and Journey of This Book

In the context of our own interpretation of and positioning on what interdisciplinarity exactly is (Sect. 1.2.1) and in delivering our stated contributions (Sect. 1.2.2), the remainder of this book proceeds as follows: Chaps. 2, 3, and 4 represent the empirical core of this book, within which we discuss the first author’s experiences in three large-scale energy research projects. Specifically, Chap. 2 discusses the dynamics of working interdisciplinarily within UK whole systems research on energy and brings to the fore what energy modellers expect from SSH scholars. Chapter 3 reflects upon the evolution and organisation of Norwegian environment-friendly energy research centres and in doing so particularly emphasises the importance of funding structures in funnelling certain configurations of interdisciplinarity. Chapter 4 then intentionally offers a different empirical perspective—a more conventional, monodisciplinary reference point, from which this book’s core interests in interdisciplinarity can be contextualised—in a bid to further progress our argument on route to this book’s conclusions. It considers a large Finnish, monodisciplinary research project on the pricing of energy risks, and provides complementary insights on issues of objectivities, power dynamics, science-policy translations, and interdisciplinarity roadblocks. All these empirical insights from Chaps. 2, 3, and 4 directly feed into our proposition for a Sociology of Interdisciplinarity (Chap. 5), where we present six dimensions: the impacts of funding; epistemic cultures; boundary objects; appropriating disciplines; interpretative flexibility; and the importance of disciplines.

Ultimately, this book applies critical social scientific ideas to the study of interdisciplinarity, relating in particular to the use, deployment, and appropriation of SSH disciplines within large-scale energy research projects. More specifically, we utilise approaches to interdisciplinarity that are directly inspired by STS. We are therefore especially interested in the practices and materiality of interdisciplinarity, including, for example, the importance of objects, technologies, and equipment (e.g. computer models), as well as the embeddedness of human actors in this materiality. Indeed, actors are constructed in certain ways as part of developing and maintaining interdisciplinary collaborations.