Models, mathematics and meaning in interdisciplinary research
Shipworth, D. (2008) Models, mathematics and meaning in interdisciplinary research. In: European Consortium for Mathematics in Industry conference (ECMI 2008) - Mini-Symposium 31 on ‘The Social Life of Mathematics’, University College, London.
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Interdisciplinary research presents particular challenges for unambiguous communication. Frequently, the meanings of words differ markedly between disciplines, leading to apparent consensus masking fundamental misunderstandings. Researchers can agree on the need for models, but conceive of models fundamentally differently. While mathematics is frequently seen as an elitist language reinforcing disciplinary distinctions, both mathematics and modelling can also offer scope to bridge disciplinary epistemological divisions and create common ground on which very different disciplines can meet. This paper reflects on the role and scope for mathematics and modelling to present a common epistemological space in interdisciplinary research spanning the social, natural and engineering sciences.