This was the final question put to Bill Bytheway in his interview for the recent issue of Generations Review.
His response was as follows…
“Research should constantly question the received wisdom and a prominent example over the last few years has been the inter-discilpinary “nature” of gerontology. I would like to see ageing research become more ‘disciplined’, generating a clearer and more profound understanding of age and of what it is, not just to grow older, but to grow older and yet older.”
I was reminded of Bill’s comment when I recently received an invitation to attend another ‘Sand Pit’ event being held at our University around the topic of Ageing, Health and Society. For those who may be unfamiliar, a ‘Sand Pit’ generally involves people from a range of disciplines and (potentially) shared interest in a topic getting together to meet, brainstorm, drink tea… and hopefully leave at the end with solid plans of how to ‘move forward’. This might include intentions to transform the big idea you’ve been discussing for the last 2 hours into a publication or grant application (ideally), promises to exchange publications and keep in touch (usually) and / or plans for another follow-up meeting (inevitably).
So as I head off into the playground, I am wondering about what can be gained and what might get lost when we embark upon interdisciplinary work. Though stuck for final answers, the kind of questions I’ve been mulling over include…
How might we remain ‘disciplined’ within our discipline, while (where appropriate – and when is it appropriate?!) also forging relations with other scholars in ways that could advance our understanding of growing older?
What is at stake when ‘ageing’ is the topic of an interdisciplinary project, but there are no gerontologists on the research team? (- and can the people calling themselves ‘gerontologists’ please stand up?! – see Veronika’s earlier blog).
When it comes to interdisciplinary work, when and how does the whole equal more than the sum of its individual parts?
How can we work with, not against, our different ways of seeing the world? (something I’ve recently written about with my colleagues – click here for details)
What mechanisms do you find most useful for developing research projects that can generate a clear and profound understanding of age and what it is? – reading? writing? thinking? conferences? sandpits? … all of the above and more?
I’d be really interested in hearing fellow BSG members thoughts on the above.
But for now, I’ll leave you with a comment made by one of my colleagues, who upon receiving the same invitation turned to me and said:
“The thing with sandpits is that I can remember having great fun in them… but I can also remember people stealing my toys and throwing sand in my eyes!”
Let’s hope there will be enough (self-)’discipline’ next week and that nobody gets sent to the Vice Chancellor, I mean head teacher, for being un-cooperative!