Over at theLab is a good article by my doktorsohn Dr. Chris Porter about being “The Interdisciplinary Scholar.” Chris wrote his PhD thesis on a social-identity interpretation of Gospel and Letters of John which was a real saga, I mean, “structural analysis of group arguments,” along with comparisons with Qumran and Philo, NT exegesis, Johannine community, etc.
Perhaps the highest quality for an interdisciplinary scholar to practice is a continual intellectual humility. In any academic discipline the expanse of unknown material presents an ever-growing challenge to maintain humility with regard to what the scholar knows (see the Dunning-Kruger effect). However, for an interdisciplinary scholar the breadth of that field of ‘known unknowns’ expands with every discipline that is drawn into the research scope. This means that intellectual humility must come to the fore within interdisciplinary research. Inevitably there will be aspects of research that appear obtuse or presumed, until—for example—it comes to light that these are building blocks that are primarily examined in first year text books. Inversely, for any interdisciplinary scholar moving into a new field, there will be aspects of research that appear new and intriguing until it is revealed that the reason it is not being investigated is due to decades of questioning that lead to an apparent dead end. A robust intellectual humility is required for interdisciplinary research.