Department III's two main areas of interest are the processes and structures that lead to varying configurations of collaborative and individual bodies of knowledge as well as the changing role of artifacts—texts, objects, and spaces—in the creation, diffusion, and use of scientific and technological knowledge. Research cases include Asian cultures and the premodern era. In addition to individual projects, Working Groups are dedicated, at different levels of detail, to gathering together scholars interested in specific issues within larger themes.
Working groups are dedicated, at different levels of detail, to gathering together scholars interested in specific issues within the larger theme of planning. At the heart of the theme’s structure, two broadly defined and open-ended working groups foster the development of new projects and lines of inquiry: Scale and Scope and Art of Judgement. Scale and Scope examines in detail how, both quantitatively and qualitatively, size historically impacted knowledge dynamics. Art of Judgement explores how decision-making has played out in the historical formation of knowledge fields.
Within these overarching groups, smaller, more project-oriented groups aim to produce collaborative scientific output and promote discussion and debate on specific topics. Art of Judgement thus includes the groups Accounting for Uncertainty and Thinking in Many Tongues. The former invites comparisons of the rationalities of knowing and not-knowing that informed diverse historical cultures of Asia, while the latter explores how the text is affected by its origin in a plurilingual society and, conversely, the effect that plurilingualism has on reading practices and on a "polyglot’s" understanding of the text.
Scale and Scope has generated two further working groups: Moving Crops and Planning and Counter-Planning. The former brings together scholars at the intersection of a variety of historically minded disciplines to experiment with the spatial and chronological dimensions of the global movement of crops. The latter project looks, through the lens of an interdisciplinary glossary, at critical views and antagonist practices of colonial and postcolonial "master planning."