How Compartmentalization in Academia Stalls Research Progress

As a university student of Quantitative Economics, the vast applications of my field of study prompted my curiosity to explore a variety of subjects that one would deem to be unrelated: neuroscience, biology, and even physics. After delving into the fields of neuroeconomics and econophysics (neuroscience and physics applications to economics), I finally began to comprehend the extraordinary implications of interdepartmental research for future progress. Simultaneously, after conversations with faculty, I discovered that the compartmentalization of academia spells a disastrous equation for innovation.

So, what do I mean by compartmentalization? Put simply: math people hate physics people (and vice versa), physics people joke about chemists, chemists roll their eyes at biologists, and each department thinks it is superior.

Ironically, all aforementioned disciplines are connected by a node of universality (for example, all disciplines study dynamic systems that are quite similar in structure, and the formulas and methods used can be integrated across a wide range of studies). How wonderful! You're naive interdisciplinary soul exclaims. Except for the reality is not so. Professors across departments rarely want to communicate with one another, and I have experienced this sentiment first hand from the faculty itself.

I have had the opportunity to communicate with multiple academics in the past, all of whom were anomalies with regards to departmental snobbishness (i.e–they wanted to collaborate with academics of exogenous studies). One of the individuals that I have spoken to is a physics professor, who expressed with an air of irritation and submission the challenges attached to collaborating with the mathematics department.

Additionally, on my quest to pursue undergraduate research opportunities in economics and math, my email proposals were repeatedly shot down by mathematical purists, who would not dare to catch even a glimpse of what they deemed to be the heretical, blinding light of economics. So much for “interdisciplinary” research that universities love to champion, I thought.

This is what we call stagnation in innovation: the inability to accept minor or radical changes and alterations in thoughts and perceptions to further progress. Academics must take it upon themselves to realize that they are causing damage to research prospects due to stubborn close-mindedness.

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