The benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary working

Photo credit Kathrine S. H. Jensen

I have been reading a recent report from the Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme on interdisciplinary research and I think it has some really useful things to say about the benefits and challenges of working interdisciplinary.

It argues that in order to address really complex research problems, an interdisciplinary approach has become more important.

Some of the benefits of interdisciplinary working are:

  • opportunities to understand how other disciplines think
  • different theoretical and methodological perspectives
  • it challenges researchers
  • encourages more lateral thinking.

Other benefits are a greater dissemination of the research and getting published in a wide variety of journals.

There are of course barriers to interdisciplinary working, such as the discipline specialisation that is embedded in much academic practice not too mention organisational structures, cultures and policies. The authors argue that it is necessary to allow time to develop a shared understanding and vocabulary for the research.

In order to achieve successful interdisciplinary working, the report recommends some strategies:

  • ensure effective communication across the team
  • time for critical reflection so team can develop shared understanding and consensus
  • develop a supportive working culture
  • strong project leadership

Authors are Grainne Conole, Eileen Scanlon, Paul Mundin and Rob Farrow. Interdisciplinary research (link to pdf)

Kathrine Jensen

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