Location of Repository

Crossing the interdisciplinary divide : political science and biological science

By Justin Greaves and Wyn Grant


This article argues that interdisciplinary collaboration can offer significant intellectual gains to political science in terms of methodological insights, questioning received assumptions and providing new perspectives on subject fields. Collaboration with natural scientists has been less common than collaboration with social scientists, but can be intellectually more rewarding. Interdisciplinary work with biological scientists can be especially valuable given the history of links between the two subjects and the similarity of some of the methodological challenges faced. The authors have been involved in two projects with biological scientists and this has led them critically to explore issues relating to the philosophy of science, in particular the similarities and differences between social and natural science, focusing on three issues: the problem of agency, the experimental research design and the individualistic fallacy. It is argued that interdisciplinary research can be fostered through shared understandings of what constitutes 'justified beliefs'. Political science can help natural scientists to understand a more sophisticated understanding of the policy process. Such research brings a number of practical challenges and the authors explain how they have sought to overcome them

Topics: JA, QH301
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2974

Suggested articles



  1. (2007). A Tale of two Charlies: Political science, History, and Civic Reform, 1890-1940‟, in doi
  2. (1993). Agendas and Instability in American Politics. Chicago: doi
  3. Available at http://econtent.essec.fr/mediaBank/Research/Entrepotdoc/Papers/m.boari/Dr_internet_05006.pdf [accessed 03/02/2009).
  4. Available from: http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/strategicplan [accessed 29/07/2009].
  5. Available from: http://www.scientificblogging.com/rationally_speaking/strong_inference_and_distinction_bet ween_soft_and_hard_science [accessed 13/07/2009].
  6. (2005). Biology and Political Science. Foundational Issues of Political Biology.
  7. (2008). Biology, Politics and the Emerging doi
  8. (2009). Biopesticides, Regulatory Innovation and the Regulatory State‟, Public Policy and Administration, doi
  9. (1999). British Approaches to Politics: the Dawn of a Self-Deprecating Discipline‟,
  10. (2006). Can Political Science Emulate the Natural Sciences? The Problem of SelfRefuting Analysis‟, doi
  11. (2007). Comments on Moran‟s “Interdisciplinarity and Political Science”‟,
  12. (1971). Comparative Politics and the Comparative Methods‟, doi
  13. (2002). course, whether political science is inductive or deductive is a large topic in itself (see, for example,
  14. (2009). Crossing Borders Can Lead to Gold – But So Can Digging Deep‟,
  15. (1994). Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. doi
  16. (2007). Ecology, politics and policy‟, doi
  17. (2009). Editorial: Truth, Conventional Wisdoms and Interdisciplinarity in Political Science‟, doi
  18. (2009). ESRC Strategic Plan 2009-2014: Delivering Impact Through Social Science.
  19. (2002). Experimental and Quazi-Experimental Designs for Generalised Causal Inference.
  20. (2008). Experimentation in Political Science‟, doi
  21. (1999). Institutional Theory in Political Science: The ‘New Institutionalism’
  22. (2002). Institutions and Ideas‟, doi
  23. (2006). Interdisciplinarity in Interdisciplinary Research Programmes in the UK. Available at http://www.york.ac.uk/res/researchintegration/Interdisciplinarity_UK.pdf [accessed 14/01/2009] Harvey,
  24. (2007). International Benchmarking Review of UK doi
  25. (2010). Intractable Policy Failure: the Case of Bovine TB and Badgers‟, doi
  26. (1965). Mathematics and Politics. doi
  27. (2007). Meanings of Methodological Individualism‟, doi
  28. (2004). Modern Philosophy: an Introduction and Survey. doi
  29. (1967). On Theoretical Sociology. doi
  30. (2002). Political Analysis.
  31. (2008). Political Science and Beyond: Presidential Address to the doi
  32. (1967). Politics and Social Science. doi
  33. (1979). Quasi-Experimentation: Design and Analysis for Field Settings.
  34. (2006). Reflexive Interdisciplinary Research: The Making of a Research Programme on the Rural Economy and Land Use‟, doi
  35. (2007). Research Methods for the Social Sciences. Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Cromwell Press. NOTES The authors acknowledge research refunding by the UK Research Councils for projects in
  36. (2008). Research Methods in Politics: a Practical Guide.
  37. (2009). Retaining the Peers: How Peer Review Triumphs Over League Tables and Faulty Accounting in doi
  38. (2006). Science Fact and Science Fiction. New York: Routledge. Available from: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=uefwmdROKTAC&dq=oedipus+effect+popper&source =gbs_navlinks_s [accessed 8/07/2008]
  39. (2008). Socio-Economic Innovation for Sustainable Food Chains: Roles for Social Science‟, Trends doi
  40. (2006). Special Issue Guest Editorial: the Scoping of an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda‟, doi
  41. (2005). Stop Working and Start Thinking: A Guide to Becoming a Scientist (2 nd edition). Abindon:
  42. (2009). Strong Inference and the Distinction Between Soft and Hard Science‟.
  43. (2009). Symposium on Assessing Research Quality: Preface, doi
  44. (1991). The Concept of Probability. doi
  45. (1910). The Physiology of Politics‟, doi
  46. (2008). The Rural North: Landscapes of Endeavour and Enquiry‟. The
  47. (2006). The Trouble with Physics. doi
  48. (2007). Trading Zones and Interactional Expertise‟, doi
  49. (2002). Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (Routledge Classics, 2 nd Edition). doi
  50. (2009). What can Interdisciplinarity Offer to Policy Problems? Understanding the Public Policy of Obesity‟, doi
  51. (2006). What do you mean?”‟ The importance of language in interdisciplinary research‟, doi
  52. (2009). Where There are Data – Quantifying the Unquantifiable‟, doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.