Efforts to promote interdisciplinary research that addresses complex interactions between humans and their environment have become commonplace in recent years, but success is often elusive. To better understand the obstacles facing natural and social scientists attempting such work, Eric D. Roy of Louisiana State University and seven coauthors from a variety of institutions surveyed researchers at all career stages who were interested and experienced in such research. Roy and his coauthors report their findings in the September issue of BioScience.
The 323 respondents, most of them from North America, largely agreed that interdisciplinary research yielded valuable benefits, including the development of new kinds of knowledge. But many said that their efforts to achieve truly integrative interdisciplinary research had been unsuccessful, and had resulted in merely additive research that, although it involved multiple disciplines, preserved the typical separate concerns of each one.
Researchers who responded to the survey most often reported new perspectives and intellectual stimulation as benefits of interdisciplinary research. But a majority reported experiencing tensions with departments and institutions, and most reported difficulty publishing research results because they did not fit within traditional disciplinary boundaries. Researchers also reported tension with collaborators arising from their different methods, theories, or approaches, but this was less common than tension with departments and institutions. Communication problems and difficulties with time allocation and funding were identified as the greatest obstacles to interdisciplinary research.
When Roy and his colleagues asked about institutional support for interdisciplinary research, limits to career advancement and lack of credit for promotion and tenure were the most commonly mentioned barriers. Natural scientists and social scientists agreed on the nature of the obstacles and thought that institutional barriers were more significant than interpersonal ones. Researchers reported, for example, concerns that they were seen as "spreading out too much."
The results make clear that achieving the goal of working together as a single unit with researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds is often hard to achieve. Roy and his colleagues conclude that "many academic departments and institutions have yet to sufficiently encourage and reward the necessary pragmatic environmental synthesis work" for contemporary environmental questions. They suggest that a balance of disciplinary expertise and integration appears necessary to the perception of success by others, and that increased emphasis on interdisciplinary integration should occur not only in graduate education, but at the undergraduate level, as well. The authors also suggest that challenges be discussed at the outset of a project, and that administrators and faculty recognize that conducting interdisciplinary work will often temporarily slow the rate at which a researcher publishes—although over the long term such work will typically lead to many publications.
BioScience, published monthly, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS; http://www.aibs.org). BioScience is a forum for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is a meta-level organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents nearly 160 member societies and organizations. The article by Roy and colleagues can be accessed ahead of print as an uncorrected proof at http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/ until early September.
The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the September 2013 issue of BioScience is as follows. These are now published ahead of print.A Tale of Two Acts: Endangered Species Listing Practices in Canada and the United States
by Robin S. Waples, Marta Nammack, Jean Fitts Cochrane, and Jeffrey A. HutchingsModeling Social–Ecological Scenarios in Marine Systems
by Christine W. Miller, Jennifer Hamel, Katherine D. Holmes, Wendy L. Helmey-Hartman, and David LopattoComplexity in Climate Change Manipulation Experiments
Tim Beardsley | EurekAlert!
Lego-like wall produces acoustic holograms
17.10.2016 | Duke University
New evidence on terrestrial and oceanic responses to climate change over last millennium
11.10.2016 | University of Granada
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine