The global mid-ocean ridge (MOR) is one of Earth's most fundamental geologic structures. Active volcanic, tectonic, hydrothermal, and biological processes occurring at the MOR affect nearly every attribute of the world's oceans and oceanic crust. For the past quarter century the overarching goal of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)–funded multidisciplinary Ridge 2000 program (http://www.ridge2000.org/) and its predecessor, Ridge Interdisciplinary Global Experiments (RIDGE), here collectively called “R2K,” has been to use observations, experiments, and models to answer fundamental questions about oceanic spreading center processes. Since its inception, R2K has worked to develop a holistic understanding of MORs. There are multiple interrelated consequences of oceanic crust generation at MORs, including transfer of material and energy from the mantle to the crust and ocean; impacts on marine ecology; and temporal, spatial, and rate-dependent interactions between biological and geological processes. Consequently, a diverse yet tightly knit community of collaborating scientists, including geologists, chemists, geophysical modelers, microbiologists, and oceanographers, has developed under R2K programs. This research community has spanned multiple generations of investigative effort, requiring it to confront transformations in communications technology, tools for use and access of data, and attitudes about cooperative approaches to scientific discovery. The tools and approaches R2K has used to enhance cross-disciplinary understanding of complex problems are adaptable to other multidisciplinary research efforts.