The Hybrid Vigor Institute is focused on creating knowledge in four distinct program areas:

Earth Systems
Health Determinants
Human Perception
Interdisciplinary Practice

Earth Systems will bring a fresh outlook to environmental topics ranging from the genetic modification of organisms to climate change and sustainability, as well as other global concerns. 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 closely 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 biologists, geneticists, paleontologists, geologists, geochemists, biochemists, astrophysicists, astronomers and cosmologists.

We suspect Earth Systems may prove particularly fruitful for the study of problems where a series of distinct phenomena usually studied by separate disciplines somehow resemble each other.

Health Determinants moves beyond medicine and medical research, pushing at the edges of several disciplines to connect and interweave the physical, psychological and social determinants of health in a broad range of fields ranging from genetics to social science.

Some of the questions to be addressed within this program area are likely to be related to such topical subjects as infertility, obesity and addiction, the latter two of which, at least, are considered epidemic in the United States.

Another critical aspect of Health Determinants will be the growing body of research being done by 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.

Already a growing area of interest for industry-academic partnerships, 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.

Positive popular response to biomedical research and development has made it clear that people are quite interested in augmenting or replacing human capabilities and perception with artificial and/or technological means.

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

The study of this program area, of course, is the raison d'etreof the Hybrid Vigor Institute. To date, there has been very little focused inquiry regarding the factors that drive interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary 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 case studies and process analyses of a wide range of projects — in the private as well as the public sector, as well as within universities — which cross disciplinary boundaries in various ways, for various reasons.

Each program area was selected because it is:

* Socially or scientifically relevant and/or important; i.e., it encompasses a sufficient number of pending questions;

* Spans a sufficient number of disparate disciplines to create the basis for a truly interdisciplinary conversation;

* Has the greatest potential for shifts in traditional thinking, future developments or breakthroughs.

In keeping with Hybrid Vigor's intent to explore both the process and content of interdisciplinary research, Earth Systems, Health Determinants and Human Perception will focus on content: the creation of interdisciplinary knowledge in order to help researchers of different disciplines better understand how to reap its benefits.

Interdisciplinary Practice, then, will focus on process: examining and evaluating how interdisciplinary research is employed in the field, in different circumstances and with different problems.

Our investigations within these program areas will showcase different types of interdisciplinary problems, as well as different subject matter. In general, these problems are of two types:

(1) Those where a single phenomenon is connected to various forces that are conventionally studied by different disciplines; and

(2) Those where a series of distinct phenomena usually studied by distinct disciplines somehow resemble each other.

Both types require inter/transdisciplinary thinking, but for different reasons. In the former, the various fields converge; in the latter, they run parallel to one another.

The Institute enthusiastically welcomes comments and suggestions for topics to be explored within any of these program areas.