Institution’s General Supportiveness for IDR from 0 (hostile) to 10 (supportive)

Environment for IDR

Convocation Survey (n=91)

Individual Survey (n=423)

Provost Survey (n=57)

Current institution

7.74 +/– 2.07

7.25 +/– 2.31

7.24 +/– 1.70

Previous institution(s)

5.95 +/– 2.17

6.35 +/– 2.57

5.67 +/– 2.04

FIGURE 5-1 Institutional environment for IDR.

NOTES: Respondents were asked to rank the general supportiveness for IDR at their current institution and up to two previous institutions on a scale of 0 (IDR-hostile) to 10 (IDR-supportive). Rankings are reported as mean +/– standard deviation. See Appendix E for more information on the three surveys.

and number of faculty. Respondents ranked their IDR experiences more favorably at institutions with budgets and faculty members at either end of the spectrum. This echoes findings by Epton et al.1

A vision of interdisciplinarity may begin with simple steps and behaviors that nourish the practice of collaboration. That might be done, for example, by creating more opportunities for faculty to work with students and postdoctoral fellows in different disciplines and departments. It might also be done by allocating seed money for space where a promising interdepartmental partnership can begin. One study notes that “interdisciplinary centers need not only to be well-funded but to have an independent physical location and intellectual direction apart from traditional university departments.”2

Over half of the institutions represented in the committee’s survey provided “venture capital” for interdisciplinary work. Amounts provided ranged from $1,000 to $1 million, but centered at $10,000-50,000 (Figure 5-2). Grant duration varied, but most tended to be 1- to 2-year awards.

A vision of interdisciplinarity might include a strategy to help young centers while they seek long-term support. For example, a university might give IDR high priority in its fund-raising and help to make the case with foundations to support an interdisciplinary strategy.

Or a vision might include a plan to broaden institutional participation wherein leaders can make the case for IDR through campus-wide meetings


Epton, S. R., Payne, R. L., and Pearson, A. W. “Cross-Disciplinarity and Organizational Forms.” In: Managing Interdisciplinary Research, Eds. Epton, S. R., Payne, R.L., and Pearson, A. W. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 1983.


Rhoten, D. and Caruso, D. “Interdisciplinary Research: Trend or Transition?,” Items and Issues 5(1-2):6, 2004.

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