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The role of funding agencies in creating interdisciplinary knowledge

Lyall, C   Bruce, A   Marsden, W   Meagher, L

Science and Public Policy   40 (1) 62-71

January 2013

The relationship between disciplines is strongly influenced by national funding agencies and a great deal of tacit knowledge about the management of interdisciplinary research programmes and projects is held by such bodies. Funders’ support is critical to achieving the potential value-added of interdisciplinarity and these agencies have key roles to play, especially in shaping large-scale interdisciplinary initiatives. This paper reports on an empirical study and offers some lessons for public policy aimed at promoting learning and generating benefits that are broadly applicable across future efforts to tackle complex, multi-dimensional research challenges. There are key practical organisational steps that could be taken to promote and support collaborative working and integration for large-scale interdisciplinary research initiatives. Awareness of these critical processes can benefit funders as well as practitioners if interdisciplinary research is to achieve its full potential.