The tension between disciplines that aspire to predict and those that aspire to describe is epistemological in nature. The latter is erroneously often attributed to the social sciences/humanities and the former to the natural sciences/engineering/medicine. A similar over-simplification is often made when distinguishing between quantitative and qualitative studies. We emphasize that the assumption that quantitative methods map neatly onto biophysical sciences and qualitative onto social sciences is completely erroneous.
A common critique of qualitative and/or studies that aspire to describe is that they can get bogged down in particularistic detail and not lead to action. A critique of quantitative and/or studies that aspire to predict, is that these are reductionist and that the quantifications/predictions will always be based on (over) simplification. Furthermore, these over-simplifications will often be the root of a new problem due to a simplistic understanding of ‘the problem’. We agree that we do need to act and we do need to learn how to incorporate reflection into our actions. The major challenge is to improve our ability to manage this tension.
Öberg, Fortmann, Gray (2013). Is Interdisciplinary Research a Mashup?