A new figure of the disciplinarities: intra, cross, multi, inter, trans

Back in 2012, I published what has become my (by far) most-read blog post: Disciplinarities: intra, cross, multi, inter, trans. There I introduced a figure that I regularly receive permission requests to republish (which I always give, in the spirit of open research).

The challenge with the previous blog post has been that I based my figure on a combination of a textual description by Stember and a more limited figure by Zeigler. This led to inconsistency when it comes to two of the disciplinarities: cross and multi. That is because the figure and the textual description do not match up.

I have received many comments about this mixup over the years, and have also thought a great deal about the differences between the two. In my new book I write about interdisciplinarity in the introduction and decided to remake the figure and fix the inconsistency in my argument. I now think about multidisciplinarity as “the step” before interdisciplinarity, while crossdisciplinarity is closer to interdisciplinarity.

Anyways, here is the new figure:

An illustration of different types of disciplinarities. License: CC-BY.

I hope it can be useful to people interested in the differences between the terms. Feel free to use it if you like it. This one comes with a CC-BY license to allow for reuse.


I am happy to see that the first point in the new UiO strategy plan is interdisciplinarity, or more specifically: “Et grensesprengende universitet”. Interdisciplinarity is always easier in theory than in practice, and this is something I am debating in a feature article in the latest volume (pages 32-33) of Forskerforum, the journal of the The Norwegian Association of Researchers (Forskerforbundet).

I have written about interdisciplinarity on this blog several times before (here, here and here). In the new article I use interdisciplinarity to not only refer to adjacent scientific disciplines, but in a more general sense. I use some of my own work as the point of departure: the video analysis work that ended up as the Musical Gestures Toolbox started out as an artistic project, was later developed within my scientific PhD work, and is now being used for both artistic projects (e.g. by Victoria Johnson), research on ADHD (Terje Sagvolden’s group) and clinical use in the analysis of children with cerebral palsy (Lars Adde).

Unfortunately, getting support (economically, administrative, etc.) for such interdisciplinary research (including both scientific and artistic research) is currently not possible in Norway. In fact, the Norwegian Research Council does not fund artistic research at all, and the Research fellowship in the arts program does not fund scientific research.

In the end of my feature article I suggest three points to the Norwegian universities and the Norwegian Research Council for how to improve the conditions for interdisciplinary research in Norway:

  1. Set up truly interdisciplinary committees for all research funding
  2. Open for projects that contain both scientific and artistic research
  3. Set aside 10% of all research funding (in all disciplines) to be used for artistic work