In our mind, it takes a multidisciplinary approach to address a number of critical, important problems that are mission areas for the Defense Department, but we also think that it does three things. It accelerates research progress by bringing groups of people together to address the problem. It expedites the transition of research into products that can actually be used by the Defense Department and the community in general. Most importantly perhaps, it prepares students to think in an interdisciplinary manner and prepares them to be a more agile sort of workforce.
William Berry, director, Office of Basic Research, Department of Defense
Those whose missions are aligned with IDR can promote it with several strategies. They may wish to have a substantial influence on the direction and productivity of research, support emerging fields that have insufficient support elsewhere, emphasize the educational and training components of interdisciplinary work, or develop more effective evaluation and review measures that help to select and sustain the best projects and people. By pulling and adjusting their own levers of influence, funding organizations play a critical role in facilitating IDR.
Congress has shown its support of IDR, indicating, for example, in the fiscal year 2004 Consolidated Appropriations Act that the National Science Foundation’s Research and Related Activities account “supports … critical cross-cutting research which brings together multiple disciplines. The conferees urge the Foundation in allocating the scarce resources provided in this bill and in preparing its fiscal 2005 budget request to be sensitive to maintaining the proper balance between the goal of stimulating interdisciplinary research and the need to maintain robust single issue research in the core disciplines.”1
Like academic institutions, funding organizations may face significant barriers in facilitating IDR—some that originate in their own traditions and others that are inherent in the nature of IDR. Most of the barriers discovered during this study have to do with the complex nature of IDR: