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Promoting interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange through improved assessment

Lyall, C

January 2012

Abstract

The changing dynamics of our natural, social and political world demand increasingly innovative solutions to complex problems on a regional, national and global scale. The ability of research funders to deliver such solutions compels integration across disciplines. The degree to which interdisciplinarity is successful is influenced by the setting up, focus and research agenda of an interdisciplinary investment. Public research funding agencies are therefore important drivers of interdisciplinary research. In particular, evaluation plays a critical role in blocking or facilitating interdisciplinarity at different stages (including peer review of research proposals, publications and other research outputs). Improved evaluation criteria and processes are key to achieving a consistent role for interdisciplinary initiatives of various kinds within academic and research-based organisations.

This article discusses some of the different models and approaches to cross-disciplinary research and offers a number of insights into the appropriate evaluation of such research. It concludes that achieving shared definitions of rigour and quality across a range of settings takes extra effort and organisational learning. The distinctiveness of the challenges posed by interdisciplinarity must be recognised, planned for, and accommodated by research funders and by those managing peer review processes.

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