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Interdisciplinary Integration in the Fifth Framework Programme

This paper describes an investigation into the experience of researchers and research managers involved in the European Union Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) with its ambitious encouragement of more integrated problem-oriented approaches to research. We used a series of workshops, a questionnaire survey, individual telephone interviews and six detailed case studies to examine the extent to which these ambitions for 'interdisciplinary integration' were being met and the issues involved. Various models of disciplinary integration were identified, which may be appropriate in particular settings.

Whilst we found disappointingly few projects that seemed by our criteria to be clearly interdisciplinary, particularly in crossing the boundary between natural and social sciences, we did find a great deal of learning taking place about how to conduct interdisciplinary research and how to overcome some of the difficulties experienced. Researchers emphasised in particular the importance of careful consortium development and team building as a basis for effective interdisciplinary research, and the time and effort needed to establish effective communication between different specialisms. The paper identifies barriers to collaboration between disciplines and some strategies and measures through which closer integration, and its associated benefits, might best be secured.