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Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research
The recommendations proposed here can help students, postdoctoral scholars, researchers, institutions, funding organizations, professional societies, and those who evaluate research to help IDR to reach its full potential.
The committee’s 15 findings are organized here in three categories: the definition of IDR, its current situation, and the changes needed to facilitate it.
Interdisciplinary research (IDR) is a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.
IDR is pluralistic in method and focus. It may be conducted by individuals or groups and may be driven by scientific curiosity or practical needs.
Interdisciplinary thinking is rapidly becoming an integral feature of research as a result of four powerful “drivers”: the inherent complexity of nature and society, the desire to explore problems and questions that are not confined to a single discipline, the need to solve societal problems, and the power of new technologies.
Successful interdisciplinary researchers have found ways to integrate and synthesize disciplinary depth with breadth of interests, visions, and skills.
Students, especially undergraduates, are strongly attracted to interdisciplinary courses, especially those of societal relevance.
The success of IDR groups depends on institutional commitment and research leadership. Leaders with clear vision and effective communication and team-building skills can catalyze the integration of disciplines.
Challenges to Overcome
The characteristics of IDR pose special challenges for funding organizations that wish to support it. IDR is typically collaborative and