By BinBin Pearce, Carolina Adler and Christian Pohl
Are there innovative methods that enable students to frame and confront the complexity of real-world problems in the context of sustainable development? Which learning approaches help students engage with design thinking to understand a particular system, and also to start thinking about responsible solutions? Which approaches enable students to reflect on their own actions, as well as become aware of the importance of diverse stakeholder perspectives and how these play out in real-world contexts?
As a community of interdisciplinary practice we need to share our collective knowledge on how funders, researchers and wider research partners can work together for better outcomes to address pressing societal challenges.
Funding interdisciplinary research: improving practices and processes
Seven key challenges to funding interdisciplinary research include:
No agreed criteria defining ‘excellence’ in interdisciplinary research.
Poor agreement of the benefits and costs of interdisciplinary ways of working.
No agreement on how much or what kind of additional funding support is required for interdisciplinary research.
No consensus on terminology.
No clearly delineated college of peers from which to select appropriate reviewers.
Interdisciplinarity has the potential to broaden and deepen our understanding and application of methods and tools to address complex challenges. When we embrace interdisciplinarity we broaden what we know about the potential methods for assessing and tackling problems, and we deepen our understanding of specific methods by applying these methods across different contexts. In my pursuit to understand co-creative processes by interconnected stakeholders – i.e., the deep and authentic engagement of stakeholders across governance, science, and community boundaries to identify and optimize the use of evidence for positive outcomes – I have been influenced by methods used outside of my discipline of implementation science and current context of child welfare services. For example, I recently read an article that studied the co-production of knowledge in soils governance (Prager & McKee, 2015) in the United Kingdom and was struck by the usefulness of these ideas for child welfare services in the United States.
In a recent special issue of the journal Nature on interdisciplinarity (17 September 2015, p313-315), Rick Rylance criticised “arcane debates about whether research is inter-, multi-, trans-, cross- or post-disciplinary”, opining “I find this faintly theological hair-splitting unhelpful.” Does he have a point?