Eight ways research institutes enable interdisciplinary research

By Paul Bolger

author_paul-bolger
Paul Bolger (biography)

One of the most substantial structural changes and investments to support interdisciplinarity within universities has been the widespread establishment of research institutes. Many have made the pursuit of interdisciplinary collaboration a central goal in their research mission. Biancani and colleagues (2014) have likened research institutes to a semi-formal organisation occupying a plane between the formal university and informal research teams. Membership of the semi-formal organisation is voluntary and researchers and groups can flexibly come together for short or long periods and depart when no longer needed.

How do these entities establish collaborative communities, and create the conditions necessary for effective interdisciplinary research?

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Connecting and building capacity in the transdisciplinary research community

By Josefa Kny and David P. M. Lam

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1. Josefa Kny (biography) (photograph by Leyla Hoppe)
2. David P. M. Lam (biography)

What does the transdisciplinary research community want when it comes to building a global and virtual community, as well as capacity?

In developing a new interactive online platform, we surveyed 122 transdisciplinary researchers, mostly from German-speaking countries, and ran an online workshop with 27 early career transdisciplinary researchers from 8 European countries to assess what they would find most effective.

The key needs identified in the survey were to:

  • receive and share information on community- and capacity- building activities
  • have opportunities to network and discuss within an online community
  • share their own research projects and experiences.

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What is needed to institutionalise transdisciplinarity?

By Gabriele Bammer

Author - Gabriele Bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

What are the indicators that transdisciplinarity has been institutionalised? How close is it? What still needs to be done to achieve institutionalisation?

Transdisciplinary teaching and research are becoming more common in universities and a range of research organisations. So how will we know that transdisciplinarity is an integral and accepted part of the research and higher education scene, nationally and internationally?

I suggest that there are two primary criteria:

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What’s required for universities to address complex societal challenges?

By David D. Hart and Linda Silka

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1. David D. Hart (biography)
2. Linda Silka (biography)

How can universities use their broad array of expertise to help in understanding and addressing complex challenges, including pandemics, environmental degradation, poverty and climate change?

For more than a decade, we have been engaged in an innovative collaboration with more than 200 faculty from nearly 30 academic disciplines to align university research with societal needs. We conceived of this initiative as an “institutional experiment,” in which our public university in the US state of Maine served as the “laboratory.”

Given Maine’s priorities and our collective expertise, we focused these problem-solving efforts on the challenge of sustainable development, which requires a dual focus on improving human well-being and protecting the environment.

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Setting an agenda for transdisciplinary research in Africa

By Basirat Oyalowo

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Basirat Oyalowo (biography)

Why is transdisciplinary research important for the advancement of African countries? What are the key issues that need to be taken into account in fostering such research?

This blog post presents key lessons from the ‘Transdisciplinary Research Workshop: Rethinking Research in COVID-19 times’, held in August 2020, in which we brought together academia, government, civil society, industry and development agencies to delve into how researchers might navigate the new terrain wrought by COVID-19 in Africa and use it to further the development of transdisciplinary research. Although the focus of the workshop was urbanization and habitable cities and on adjusting to COVID-19, the lessons for enhancing transdisciplinary research are more broadly generalizable.

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i2Insights ambassadors and fifth annual review

By Gabriele Bammer

Author - Gabriele Bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

In November the blog had its fifth birthday. It was an occasion to reflect on how far we have come and where we want to head. Here we describe our new i2Insights Ambassadors program to acknowledge those who champion the blog and to highlight ways supporters can help the blog achieve its aims.

We also share the highlights of 2020 and major improvements made to the blog this year. Finally we showcase 13 blog posts published in 2020 that achieved more than 750 views.

If you are looking for short, thought-provoking reading, there are now well over 300 blog posts to choose from. Rummage through the blog scroll or the list of highlighted posts (this was removed on 5/8/21). Or search the index or use the advanced search to find topics that may interest you.

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Effectively leading interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research organisations

By Global Leaders of Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research Organisations

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Global Leaders of Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research Organisations details (biographies)

What qualities and skills do leaders of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research organisations need?

Leaders of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research organisations need the qualities that make any leader successful—creativity, humility, open-mindedness, long-term vision, and being a team player. In addition, we identified eight leadership attributes that are specific to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary interactions and that help leaders to be transformative with real world impacts. Leaders need to cultivate:

  1. vision beyond the status quo
  2. collaborative leadership
  3. partnerships
  4. shared culture
  5. communications with multiple audiences
  6. appropriate monitoring and evaluation
  7. perseverance
  8. resources for success.

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Systems transdisciplinarity as a metadiscipline

By Vladimir Mokiy

author_vladimir-mokiy
Vladimir Mokiy (biography)

In 1990, specialists from the Russian School of Transdisciplinarity began to develop the type of systems transdisciplinarity proposed by Erich Jantsch in 1972. He argued for the coordination of all disciplines and interdisciplines in the education and innovation system on the basis of a generalized axiomatic and an emerging epistemological pattern.

Since this approach has a philosophical rationale, conceptual and methodological basis, and appropriate technological methods, it can be considered as an independent metadiscipline – systems transdisciplinarity.

Transdisciplinarity as a meta-discipline has the following basic attributes:

  • a meta-theory; and,
  • a meta-narrative.

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Practical actions for fostering cross-disciplinary research

By Yan Ding, Justin Pulford, Susie Crossman and Imelda Bates

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1. Yan Ding (biography)
2. Justin Pulford (biography)
3. Susie Crossman (biography)
4. Imelda Bates (biography)

How can we facilitate cross-disciplinary research in practice? What practical actions are considered important for participating in cross-disciplinary research? How do these actions change at the individual, research team/programme and institutional/funder level?

Cross-disciplinary research approaches allow for the interchange of knowledge and experience to stimulate innovative responses to complex research challenges.

Individual researchers

The individual researcher requires certain personal attributes for effective participation in cross-disciplinary research.

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Are research institutes fulfilling their interdisciplinary roles in universities?

By Paul Bolger

author_paul-bolger
Paul Bolger (biography)

The number of research centres and institutes within universities has exploded in the last two decades, but how effective have they been in delivering on their interdisciplinary goals?

A key raison d’etre for establishing a research centre or institute is to bring together researchers from multiple disciplines in a particular area of research study, and to foster interdisciplinary collaboration. You don’t have to read too far into mission statements and websites to encounter a goal to be cross-, multi-, inter-, or trans- disciplinary.

The establishment of interdisciplinary research centres and institutes has been a key structural response for universities interested in embedding interdisciplinarity within the university research system, as it enables universities to retain traditional departments while having a locus to address the grand challenges of society in an interdisciplinary approach.

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Evolution of hot topics in team science / 团队科学中热点主题的演变

By Ying Huang, Ruinan Li, Yashan Li and Lin Zhang

A Chinese version of this post is available

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1. Ying Huang (biography)
2. Ruinan Li (biography)
3. Yashan Li (biography)
4. Lin Zhang (biography

What are the research hotspots in the Science of Team Science (SciTS) field? How have they evolved in the last decade?

We used conference programs from the annual International Science of Team Science (INSciTS) conferences held between 2010-2019 and the CorTexT Platform (https://www.cortext.net/) to select the top terms used with high frequency in the 852 titles and abstracts.

High-frequency terms and their evolution

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Acknowledging and responding to criticisms of interdisciplinarity / Reconnaître et répondre aux critiques de l’interdisciplinarité

By Romain Sauzet

A French version of this post is available

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Romain Sauzet (biography)

What are the core arguments that critics of interdisciplinarity employ? Which of these criticisms can help to clarify what interdisciplinarity is and what it isn’t?

While some of the criticisms of interdisciplinarity stem from a general misunderstanding of its purpose or from a bad experience, others seem well-founded. Thus, while some must be rejected, others should be accepted.

I outline five different types of criticisms drawn from three main sources:(1) academic writings (see reference list), (2) an empirical survey on interdisciplinarity (Sauzet 2017) (3) informal discussions.

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