Facilitating serendipity for interdisciplinary research

By Catherine Lyall

Catherine Lyall (biography)

How can institutions facilitate the serendipitous encounters that so often appear to characterise interdisciplinary careers? Is there an inherent hypocrisy in university leaders, research funders and policymakers claiming that they want to facilitate interdisciplinarity and then not creating the conditions that experienced interdisciplinarians say they need in order to foster this style of working?

Here I examine the importance of informal interactions, physical locations, the ‘small stuff’ and ‘slow research.’ I draw on interviews with British academics (at various career stages from postdoc to professor) whose doctoral studies had been funded by deliberately interdisciplinary studentship schemes. For more detail, including the sources of the quotations, see Lyall (2019).

Informality is crucial

Finding the time and space for informal discussions with colleagues is critical.

Read more