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. Hutchings
Modeling Social–Ecological Scenarios in Marine Systems
by Henrik Österblom, Andrew Merrie, Marc Metian, Wiebren J. Boonstra, Thorsten Blenckner, James R. Watson, Ryan R. Rykaczewski, Yoshitaka Ota, Jorge L. Sarmiento, Villy Christensen, Maja Schlüter, Simon Birnbaum, Bo G. Gustafsson, Christoph Humborg, Carl-Magnus Mörth, Bärbel Müller-Karulis, Maciej T. Tomczak, Max Troell, and Carl Folke
The Elusive Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity at the Human–Environment Interface
by Eric D. Roy, Anita T. Morzillo, Francisco Seijo, Sheila M. W. Reddy, Jeanine M. Rhemtulla, Jeffrey C. Milder, Tobias Kuemmerle, and Sherry L. Martin
Extending Your Research Team: Learning Benefits When a Laboratory Partners with a Classroom
by Christine W. Miller, Jennifer Hamel, Katherine D. Holmes, Wendy L. Helmey-Hartman, and David Lopatto
Complexity in Climate Change Manipulation Experiments
by Juergen Kreyling and Claus Beier
Tim Beardsley | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.aibs.org
More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:
Stingray movement could inspire the next generation of submarines
14.11.2013 | University at Buffalo
An intersection of math and biology: Clams and snails inspire robotic diggers and crawlers
12.11.2013 | Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
A star is formed when a large cloud of gas and dust condenses and eventually becomes so dense that it collapses into a ball of gas, where the pressure heats the matter, creating a glowing gas ball – a star is born.
New research from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, shows that a young, newly formed star in the Milky Way had such an explosive growth, that it was initially about 100 times brighter than it is now. The results are published in the scientific journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The young ...
EPFL scientists have shown how to achieve a dramatic increase in the capacity of optical fibers; Their simple, innovative solution reduces the amount of space required between the pulses of light that transport data
Optical fibers carry data in the form of pulses of light over distances of thousands of miles at amazing speeds. They are one of the glories of modern telecommunications technology.
However, their capacity is limited, because the pulses of light need to be lined up one after the other in ...
NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel airborne mission known as HS3 wrapped up for the 2013 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season at the end of September, and had several highlights. HS3 will return to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.
During the 2013 mission, two unmanned Global Hawks flew from Wallops for the first time. The mission highlights included studying the Saharan Air Layer, following the genesis of a tropical storm, finding a unique hybrid core or center circulation in a redeveloped storm, obtaining measurements on the strongest side of ...
Nanosponges that soak up a dangerous pore-forming toxin produced by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) could serve as a safe and effective vaccine against this toxin.
This "nanosponge vaccine" enabled the immune systems of mice to block the adverse effects of the alpha-haemolysin toxin from MRSA—both within the bloodstream and on the skin. Nanoengineers from the University of California, San Diego described the safety and efficacy of this nanosponge vaccine in the December 1 issue of ...
04.12.2013 | Health and Medicine
04.12.2013 | Materials Sciences
04.12.2013 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News
29.10.2013 | Event News