PROGRAM AREAS

The Hybrid Vigor Institute is focused on producing innovative, integrated knowledge in four distinct program areas. The knowledge we produce in these areas will be housed on our working research site, hybridvigor.net.

• Earth Systems. Earth Systems brings a fresh outlook to environmental topics, ranging from the genetic modification of organisms to climate change and sustainability, as well as other global concerns. Although interdisciplinary work has found far greater acceptance here, the density and complexity of these problems present the opportunity for a new approach even within the environmental research community's broader purview.

Some of the topics explored will include the study of how artifacts of modern industrial culture affect the global environment; others will explore a single natural phenomenon from the perspective of the several disciplines which study it.

In addition, this program area will track questions within the burgeoning new interdisciplinary area of astrobiology, which explores the origins of life on earth and beyond from the perspective of a dazzling number of disciplines, including biology, genetics, paleontology, geology, geochemistry, biochemistry, astrophysics, astronomy and cosmology.

• Health Determinants. Health Determinants moves beyond medicine and medical research, pushing at the edges of several disciplines and alternative and complementary approaches, in order to connect and interweave the physical, psychological and social determinants of health in a broad range of fields ranging from genetics to psychology and public policy.

Some of the questions to be addressed within this program area will be related to such topical and multi-disciplinary subjects as risk and regulation in a post-genome world, addiction, infertility, obesity, and mitigating the effects of poverty on human health around the world.

Another important aspect of Health Determinants will be the growing body of research in several disciplines in the area of mind-body interactions, which explores several important open questions, including the study of the effects of emotions on health, the placebo effect, sleep research and the mechanisms which influence human learning.

• Human Perception. Already a growing area of interest for industry-academic partnerships in biotechnology, Human Perception will explore the wide range of creative, rigorous and potentially lucrative research being done by many disciplines on virtually all the senses — vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste — as well as other ways of knowing. This program will also investigate subjects which are influenced by human perceptive capabilities, such as intelligence, memory, time and our ability to process information.

Positive popular response to biomedical research and development has made it clear that there is great interest in augmenting or replacing human capabilities and perception by artificial and/or technological means.

This area of inquiry encompasses biology, neurology, physiology, experimental and cognitive psychology, sociology, psychophysics and others, including as well important work done by artists and gifted amateurs — most of whom, to date, do not communicate with each other.

• Interdisciplinary Practice. The work of this program area is the raison d'etre of the Hybrid Vigor Institute. To date, there has been very little focused inquiry regarding the components and factors that drive interdisciplinary projects to success or failure.

The goal of the Interdisciplinary Practice program area, then, is to make explicit what works and what does not work for interdisciplinary research. We will do so by various means, including the development of methodologies and measurements for conducting interdisciplinary work, as well as chronicling examples and case studies and conducting social network analyses on a wide range of projects — in private as well as public sector organizations and universities — which cross disciplinary boundaries.

Our commitment to this program area springs from the knowledge that a new methodology is critical in an era where the complexity of problems has overwhelmed traditional, disciplinary methods for solving them. While the potential for "being interdisciplinary" is enormous, the reality is that few researchers have the knowledge or the tools to approach a problem using interdisciplinary methods — even given the ubiquity of global networks which now allow researchers to connect, rather than protect, the knowledge they produce.

Visit hybridvigor.net for Hybrid Vigor publications and resources connected with these program areas.