The basic premise of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis is that the causes of preterm birth involve highly interactive biologic and environmental factors that will not be uncovered by singular studies from isolated disciplines. Rather, the guiding principle is based on a commitment to craft investigational collaborations, integrated datasets, and innovative analytic and imaging tools that will generate new insights into the complex causes of preterm birth. This transdisciplinary center assembles scientists from diverse fields to share knowledge and integrate data systems to transform one another’s perspectives and craft a rich analytic framework to understand what has until now remained a mystery.
Transdisciplinary research addresses a single topic from many perspectives, while creating shared knowledge, new methods that reveal new insights, and new syntheses aimed at solving a real-world problem. For example, one area of study, cervical remodeling, includes OB/GYNs, biomedical engineers, and electrical and computational engineers. Similar transdisciplinary teams have been assembled for the other research themes including 3-Dimensional Electrophysiology of the Uterus, which brings together a diverse team with expertise in cardiology, radiology, comparative medicine, and bioengineering. The Influence of Chronodisruption on Risk of Preterm Birth, another research theme, involves a community of geneticists, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, circadian biologists, and physiologists.
A community of these types of disparate relationships will move from local collaborations and partial intellectual discussions to more global collaborations and increasingly broad and deep intellectual integration. This transdisciplinary approach will create a new intellectual community focused on an identifiable topic by sharing methodological approaches and understandings.
The March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis will further develop the infrastructure and foundational elements of transdisciplinary research as a means of accelerating the answers to complex medical and environmental problems affecting preterm birth that cannot be found by more traditional forms of research.