Interdisciplinary research is frequently viewed as an important component of the research landscape through its innovative ability to integrate knowledge from different areas. However, support for interdisciplinary research is often strategic rhetoric, with policy-makers and universities frequently adopting practices that favour disciplinary performance. We argue that disciplinary and interdisciplinary research are complementary, and we develop a simple framework that demonstrates this for a semi-permanent interdisciplinary research field. We argue that the presence of communicating infrastructures fosters communication and integration between disciplines and the interdisciplinary research field to generate innovative knowledge. We apply this to the experience of economic history in Australia in the second half of the twentieth century to demonstrate the life cycle of a semi-permanent interdisciplinary research field.