How cross-disciplinary is bionanotechnology? Explorations in the specialty of molecular motors

I. Rafols, M. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

88 Citations (Scopus)


Nanotechnology has been presented in the policy discourse as an intrinsically interdisciplinary field, requiring collaborations among researchers with different backgrounds, and specific funding schemes supporting knowledge-integration activities. Early bibliometric studies supported this interdisciplinary vision (MEYER & PERSSON, 1998), but recent results suggest that nanotechnology is (yet) a mixed bag with various mono-disciplinary subfields (SCHUMMER, 2004). We have reexamined the issue at the research project level, carrying out five case studies in molecular motors, a specialty of bionanotechnology. Relying both in data from interviews and bibliometric indicators, we have developed a multidimensional analysis (SANZ-MENÉNDEZ et al., 2001) in order to explore the extent and types of cross-disciplinary practices in each project. We have found that there is a consistent high degree of cross-disciplinarity in the cognitive practices of research (i.e., use of references and instrumentalities) but a more erratic and narrower degree in the social dimensions (i.e., affiliation and researchers’ background). This suggests that cross-disciplinarity is an eminently epistemic characteristic and that bibliometric indicators based on citations and references capture more accurately the generation of cross-disciplinary knowledge than approaches tracking co-authors’ disciplinary affiliations. In the light of these findings we raise the question whether policies focusing on formal collaborations between laboratories are the most appropriate to facilitate cross-disciplinary knowledge acquisition and generation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633–650
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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