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Interdisciplinary research and academic sustainability: managing knowledge in an age of accountability



For the past 125 years the university has been the home of knowledge production. The 20th century research university combined a Kantian belief in disciplinarity, a Humboldtian commitment to linking research and education and upholding academic autonomy, and a Cartesian allegiance to infinite knowledge production. This approach to knowledge creation was seen as sufficient, for knowledge products themselves were understood as automatically relevant to society, and no one imagined a problem with endless knowledge production. The 20th century model of knowledge production is now under pressure from a number of sources: information technologies, neoliberal assumptions and demands for greater accountability. ‘Interdisciplinarity’ has become the term of art for addressing this crisis. But interdisciplinarity is no panacea to the challenges facing knowledge production today. In addition to knowledge on sustainability, knowledge production itself must now be made sustainable. This requires clearly connecting knowledge production and use, and ending the bad infinity of knowledge production.


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*Correspondence: Dr Robert Frodeman e-mail:


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