The dominant theory of cross-disciplinarity represents multidisciplinarity as ‘lower’ or ‘less interesting’ than interdisciplinarity. In this paper, it is argued that this unfavorable representation of multidisciplinarity is ungrounded because it is an effect of the theory being incomplete. It is also explained that the unfavorable, ungrounded representation of multidisciplinarity is problematic: when someone adopts the dominant theory of cross-disciplinarity, the unfavorable representation supports the development of a preference for interdisciplinarity over multidisciplinarity. However, being ungrounded, the support the representation provides for a preference for interdisciplinarity, is invalid. The issue is even more pressing because research policy makers and funding bodies are among the adopters of the theory, which means that there is a risk of policies reflecting an unjustified preference for interdisciplinarity over multidisciplinarity. This paper presents an improved version of the dominant theory of cross-disciplinarity, obtained by completing the original version with the information it was missing. Because the improved version is more neutral regarding the value of different types of cross-disciplinarity, it is better suited for use by research policy makers and funding bodies.
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DOI 10.1007/s13194-020-00283-z
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