Interdisciplinarity skill: accepting is not [always] the same as agreeing


an image that says accepting is the first step in changing

I am becoming more and more interested in an interdisciplinary way of looking at our problems. Yet, I find myself making a basic mistake an interdisciplinary researcher should not make.

Among the greatest challenge as an interdisciplinary researcher is how to “accept” ideas coming from friends, colleagues, or even someone who has continuously been on the other side of you.

What I meant with accept[ing] is not necessarily the same as agree[ing]. Accepting an idea, all we need is to understand the complete dimensions of an idea, however, you can still indicate your disagreement after you reflect on what you understand. That being said, all ideas are actually good. We should not judge an idea just because it is old, not creative or innovative, already suggested by others. They are to emphasize, or strengthen, the original idea.

In the climate change literatures, there is an article widely cited for the idea of using available technologies instead of spending our time on discovering new technologies from fundamental research that can address climate problems; it is called stabilization wedges by Socolow and Pacala.

The version on Time magazine:,9171,1604890,00.html

The version on Princenton University website:

About a month ago, I was part of a forum called Generation 21 organized by the Indonesian Embassy in Washington DC. We talked a lot about innovation, thinking forward not backward, leave those old ideas and find new ideas, and many other topics along those lines. I was skeptical just because I believe we still need those old ideas and all we need is to translate them into the current setting.

Again, it is about how we perceive an idea that it does not come from us, and it is old, and it may have been said somewhere else. How we can put our mind in a way so that we can accept them. Realizing that the idea is always good no matter what, and suggesting to the person who suggests the idea that “I think you need to talk to A because A has quite similar interests with you“ rather than saying “isn’t that already said by A or B?”

There is no easy way to become an interdisciplinary researcher. Just like accepting an idea even if you disagree. This requires a long process of experiencing and reflecting on the matter.


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