of Interdisciplinary Research, provided funding for international meetings on the organization of IDR.2 Most quantitative research to date has examined interdisciplinarity by using citation-database analysis.3

We contacted

  • *Margaret Somerville, Samuel Gale Professor of Law and Professor of Medicine, McGill Center for Medicine, Ethics, and Law, McGill University

  • *Julie Thompson Klein, professor of humanities, Wayne State University


IDR program and center directors were asked to discuss their experience in IDR, evaluating prospective researchers, accessing funding, facilitating IDR, determining research goals and duration, evaluating the success of the research team, and publishing research results. We also asked for examples of models and effective practices.

From those discussions, a few themes emerged: leadership, institutional support, and departmental buy-in. To create a successful academic interdisciplinary center or program required a visionary leader. In addition to being persistent and persuasive, the leader had to have sufficient stature in the institution and in a research field and the support of the university president or provost. The leader had to coordinate her/his vision with relevant institutional departments; in effect, the leader needed to develop partnerships and sell participation in the program or center. The leader had to successfully negotiate shared costs, faculty hires, space allocation, and funding. Finally, the leader had to recruit and sustain faculty and student participation.


See Managing High Technology: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Eds. Mar, B.W., Newell, W.T., and Saxberg, B.O. Elsevier: New York. 1985. This volume is based on papers from the Third International Conference on Interdisciplinary Research, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., 1-3 August, 1984.


Baumann, H. 2003. Publish and Perish? The impact of citation indexing on the development of new fields of environmental research. Journal of Industrial Ecology 6, 3-4:13-26; Chubin, D. E., Porter, A. L., and Rossini, F. A. 1984. “Citation Classics” Analysis: An Approach to Characterizing Interdisciplinary Research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 35, 6:360-368; McCain, K. W. and Whitney, P. J. 1994. Contrasting Assessments of Interdisciplinarity in Emerging Specialties: The Case of Neural Networks Research. Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization 15, 3:285-306; Steele, T. W. and Stier, J. C. 2000. The Impact of Interdisciplinary Research in the Environmental Sciences: A Forestry Case Study. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 51, 5:476-84.

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