PRIMER - PRomoting Interdisciplinary Methodologies in Education and Research

General Objective

Development of recognised interdisciplinary studies -including education and research- based on system science, open innovation and design science, and aimed to develop abilities for integrating knowledge that can be addressed to the solution of scientific and societal complex problems, as environmental and social sustainability, ICT and society issues, the building of social responsibility, etc. 
To that end the following CURRICULA types are envisaged: 
(a) modules for providing complementary qualification (including summer courses), recognised by HE institutions (in partnership); 
(b) open courses certified through the open Badge system; 
(c) training modules for teachers and researchers interested in bridging domains or tackling complex problems. 
On the other hand, RESEARCH activity should be also developed in integration with the educational programmes.

ODS approach: An integrative Framework

The integration framework of the three approaches: Open Innovation, Design Science, Systems Science is illustrated in the following figure. We name this integrative framework ODS approach.

This interrelationship among the 3 methodological approaches is closed related to the relation among aesthetics, politics and sciences as presented in different contexts (for instance, in the past European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research in Vienna, the Workshop on Information and Systems in Munich, the Summer Course on Social Networks in León, all these held during 2012 and organised by the proponents, but also often referred to in the work of R. Zimmermann).

PRIMER refers metaphorically to the education & research programme proposed, even consider its polysemy: it initially refers to the compilation of elements for teaching to read; in our case we wish to offer foundations in a nutshell to understand unity in real-world diversity. But primer also refers to the small part of explosive used to detonate a larger explosive; whereas we wish to offer basic elements so that a broad and creative confrontation to problems emerge, and it is a sort of explosive confrontation to complex and intriguing issues what we would like to see. Furthermore, primer is also used in genetic contexts, referring to the segments of DNA or RNA complementary to a given DNA to initiate replications; according to our viewpoint -as some of the proponents have exposed- it is because of the common architecture of the knower and the world why he can -partially- get to know it.


  1. EU encourages interdisciplinarity as a means to face complex societal and environmental challenges or our age (e.g. EURAB-2004, RISEPTIS-20010);
  2. The International Standard on Social Resposibility ISO26000, refers to the need of adopting overarching approaches to the organisations, problems and environments in the endeavour of building social responsibility. EC encourages education and training programmes to promote social responsibility (A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility).
  3. The founding process of an European Higher Education Area aims at promoting cooperation in the attainment of a sustainable future, and to this end interdisciplinarity is specifically encouraged.


Interdisciplinarity in research and education has been targeted since long by European institutions and abroad as a fundamental means to foster new knowledge, face the complex challenge of our age, enabling innovation, transferring knowledge and attaining broad societal alliances. Therefore interdisciplinarity (ID) is included in most of the national and international agendas concerning education and research, and there is a number of successful educational programmes and research centres in which interdisciplinarity has shown to yield broad cooperations, to attract significant investments and to solve intriguing problems of technical, societal and environmental nature.

Nevertheless, as several studies have shown there is a lack of common criteria and methodological approach which hinders a better promotion and recognition of ID. This contrasts with the fact that System Science has developed since the 1950s a breadth of knowledge -both theoretical and applied- which has harvest valuable theoretical and technical results (for instance, some branches of neuroscience, and engineering cybernetic). This gap between ID programmes and system thinking can be understood by a void in the promotion of attaining holistic views of the complexity under study, which is essential to system thinking. However since the development of the international guidance on social responsibility (ISO 26000), which is boosted by European authorities and this programme, the holistic perspective approach to be at the current European agenda, thus closing the gap. At the crossroad of institutions and programmes devoted to the promotion of both ID and system science we aim at providing training in ID skills through theory and application to real problems.

To this end we shall:
  1. develop interdisciplinary curricula among the participant universities oriented to supplementary qualification, including staff training;
  2. develop complementary activities for the dissemination of interdisciplinary methodologies through academia and general public;
  3. Involvement of participant research communities and partners (associated to consortium members, in particular industrial alliances and research networks) in order to integrate the tackling of real interdisciplinary problems as a part of the interdisciplinar education.
  4. Some flagship ID domains -relying on our strengths- should be specifically developed, for instance: ICT & Society, Environmental Management, Sustainable Energy Management, Social Responsibility, ID Pedagogy.

Work Plan

The following Figure summarises the Work Plan throughout the 3 years of development (to enlarge it, click on it).

Fields of Application

  • Interdisciplinary study of information (What is information in each disciplines? Can a unitary concept or a set of primitive concepts be devaloped? [ISIS, BITrum]
  • ODS fundations (Primer): Elaboration of a Theoretical Corpus development [BCSSS, IDS, OCS]
  • Environmental management [ULE-Irena, HM]
  • Energy supply and management (renewable sources and efficient networks, including habits, social process...)  [ULE-Irena, HM, UAE]
  • Social Responsibility Design (usage of myUniversity) [ULE, IDS, HM]
  • ICTs and Society (Making ICT design meet social needs; human-computing interation) [UAE, ULE-Inteco, UNED-OCS, ICT&S, IDS, BCSSS]
  • Biotechnology and Society (ethics, sustainability, politics) [ULE, HM]
  • Eldery Health [ULE, HM]
  • Arts, Society and Technology [ULE-MUSAC, HM, UNED, UAE]
Possible congresses:
  • Foundations of Information Science - FIS
  • Interdisciplinary Study of Information - BITrum
  • European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research - EMCSR
  • ICTs and society Network Meeting
  • Hybrid Days
  • The Humanities and Technology Camp - THATCamp

José María Díaz Nafría,
Jan 24, 2013, 3:25 PM