Supporting Interdisciplinarity
Phil Ward
Deputy Director
Research Services
University of Kent
Drivers for Interdisciplinarity
Drivers for Interdisciplinarity
• Research Councils
– Cross council initiatives
• Lifelong health and wellbeing
• Living with environmental change
• Global uncertainties
• European Commission
– H2020 Societal challenges
• Health, demographic change and wellbeing;
• Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and
maritime and inland water research, and the Bioeconomy;
• Secure, clean and efficient energy;
• Smart, green and integrated transport;
• Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials;
• Europe in a changing world - inclusive, innovative and reflective
societies;
• Secure societies - protecting freedom and security of Europe and its
citizens
Supporting Interdisciplinarity
Funding
Identify funders
Help with the proposal and application process
Costing
Contracts
Finance
Page 4
Institutional ‘sign off’
‘Accept’ award and negotiate contract
Manage Award
Financial claims
End of Award reports
Supporting Interdisciplinarity
• Laissez faire
– leave academics to make their own collaborations
• PVC’s Lunchtime Seminars
– Provide opportunity to discover other researchers
• Responding to specific calls
– Draw together academics to answer a specific call
• Crucibles/sandpits
– Draw together academics to find their own project
Laissez Faire
• Collaborations naturally occur
– Conferences, coffee shops, University meetings
• Examples include:
– National Centre for Statistical Ecology
• Ecologists and statisticians
– Reproduction: geneticists, lawyers, sociologists
and ethical philosophers
Laissez Faire
Pros
• Links tend to be more
deeper and more enduring
• Doesn’t require external
involvement
Cons
• Haphazard
• Not necessarily in priority
areas (either internally or
externally)
PVC’s Lunchtime Seminars
• 2007-2012
• Introduced by PVC
• Two hour lunchtime slot
– Half an hour lunch
– 90 minute talks/discussion
• Attendance c20-40
• Broad subject
– encompass two or more schools
– Structure varied
Topics
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Environment
Images
Infection
Security
Social Identity
Tourism
European Funding
Centre for Reasoning
Centre for Biomedical Informatics
Environmental Priority Group
The Face of the Expert
Institutions
Diagnosing Genetic Diseases
• Flesh and the Body
• Religion, Community & Violence
• Energy Security and Climate
Change
• Decision Making under Risk &
Uncertainty
• Medical Research: working with
local charities
• What Does It Mean to Have a
Vocation?
• Reworking Work
• Violent and Non-Violent Protest
• Green Crime
• Europeanisation
Disciplinary Spread
• 94 speakers took part (9 twice)
• Social Sciences (54)
– Sociology & Social Policy (13), Politics & International
Relations (12), Anthropology & Conservation (9),
Economics (6), Law (4), Psychology (4), Business (4),
• Humanities (23)
– European Languages & Culture (11), History (6),
English (3), Arts (2), Architecture (1)
• Sciences (17)
– Biosciences (8), Engineering & Digital Art (3),
Computing (2), Physical Sciences (2), Maths (1)
PVC’s Lunchtime Seminars
Pros
• No pressure
• Senior management buy in
• Broad appeal
• Social element
• Opportunity for unexpected
links
Cons
• No pressure
• Tended to attract an
increasingly similar group of
academics
• No substantial
collaborations arose from it
• A lot of preparatory work
Responding to Specific Calls
• Example: Design for Wellbeing
– EPSRC/ESRC/AHRC call, May 2012
• £7m for up to 5 projects
• ‘to create a step change in interdisciplinary
engineering, social science and design research for
wellbeing in the built environment’
Design for Wellbeing – at Kent
• Identified potential
• Identified potential collaborators (May)
– Approached individually to gauge interest (June)
• Put out a call to all staff to attend an
information event (July)
– Well attended, but eclectic mix
– Lack of willingness to lead
• Eventually forthcoming
Design for Wellbeing – at Kent
• Further meetings (July-Aug)
– Drew in external organisations, incl social housing
providers, technology companies, architects
• A draft project prepared
– Focused on ‘transition points’
• Recognised that changes in environment as a result of accidents,
deteriorating health or bereavement have adverse effects
• Support is disjointed
• Project would work with care providers to build a robust,
consistent transition framework for carers, professionals and the
patients themselves, using existing technological and
environmental interventions.
• Eventually folded (Sept)
Responding to Specific Calls
Pros
• Commitment by funder to
the area
• Provides focus for
discussions
Cons
• Time consuming
• Need to be ahead of the
curve
– Usually too late by the time
the call is issued
• Needs firm leadership
– To attract and put off people
• Oversubscribed
– Chances of funding are slim
– PI/Group already identified?
Crucibles and Sandpits
• Specific, funded calls for academics and
researchers to develop a interdisciplinary
project
• Residential
• Guaranteed funding at the end
• EPSRC, Nesta, University of Sheffield
• Kent 50th Anniversary Project
Crucibles and Sandpits
Pros
• Intense period of focus
• Free of distractions
• Funding attached
• Productive
Cons
• Self selecting
– Do you always get ‘best’
researchers?
• Prescribed areas
• Busy academics don’t have
time
• Long term?
Contact Details
Phil Ward
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University of Kent
01227 827748
[email protected]
http://fundermental.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/frootle
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Supporting Interdisciplinarity