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6 How Funding Organizations Can Facilitate Interdisciplinary Research
Pages 114-136

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From page 114...
... to the extent that it requires risk-taking and administrative complexities that may be greater than those of single-discipline programs. It is helpful, however, to recall the "drivers" of IDR described in Chapter 2, which indicate that today's most pressing research and societal questions are often best addressed by interdisciplinary approaches.
From page 115...
... The conferees urge the Foundation in allocating the scarce resources provided in this bill and in preparing its fiscal 2005 budget request to be sensitive to maintaining the proper balance between the goal of stimulating interdisciplinary research and the need to maintain robust single issue research in the core disciplines."1 BARRIERS ENCOUNTERED BY FUNDING ORGANIZATIONS IN SUPPORTING IDR Like academic institutions, funding organizations may face significant barriers in facilitating IDR -- some that originate in their own traditions and others that are inherent in the nature of IDR. Most of the barriers discovered during this study have to do with the complex nature of IDR: 1US Congress.
From page 116...
... . A recent comprehensive study of NSF policies found that "NSF's priority areas demonstrate an interdisciplinary perspective, especially as evidenced by the extent of cross-directorate funding." However, the same study cautioned that "highly variable attention to interdisciplinary research in NSF's strategy, budget, and public documents does not communicate a consistent message." It also found that "no effective mechanism is in place to track or set performance goals for interdisciplinary research that can be used for planning, budget, and management decision making" and that "NSF's two merit review criteria say relatively little with regard to interdisciplinary research."2 Additional difficulties were reported by investigators applying for agency funding.
From page 117...
... do would = job (n proposals They that good already IDR take up agencies that for set IDR could Don't barriers discourage funding process for on of agencies grants review project based quality Agencies Give funding IDR sure IDR SURVEY effective that Funding truly Make funded is recommendations more in action a three risks one IDR top funding innovative Take The implement agencies.
From page 118...
... 118 l of area This fisca which multi predates in is owth gr 2001. This Academy NSF of NSF PI.
From page 119...
... Marvin Singer, senior adviser, Applied Energy Program, Office of Science, Department of Energy SUPPORT FOR IDEAS AND INITIATIVES Nonetheless, some funding organizations, especially federal agencies with research-based missions, have built large IDR programs by responding to the drivers of IDR described in Chapter 2, especially the inherent complexity of nature, the desire to follow questions to the interfaces of disciplines, and the need to address multifaceted societal issues. Both public and private funding organizations have been successful in linking their missions with an interdisciplinary vision.
From page 120...
... nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-RM-04-008.html. nary strategies; creation of specialized centers to help scientists forge new and more advanced disciplines from existing ones; and initiation of forward-looking conferences to catalyze collaboration among the life and physical sciences, important areas of research that historically have had limited interaction." Other major federal efforts are explicitly interdisciplinary in concept, including the Multidisciplinary Research Program of the University Research Initiative (MURI)
From page 121...
... Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) a is specifically targeted at proposals that "intersect more than one tradi tional science and engineering discipline." The program disperses about $150 mil lion per year and represents about 10 percent of DoD's overall basic research program.
From page 122...
... NAI provides support for postdoctoral fellowships through the NASA-National Research Council Associateship Program. An NAI re search scholarship provides stipends and research-related travel funds to gradu ate students and postdoctoral scholars so that they can circulate between two or more of the lead teams.
From page 123...
... a DARPA home page. http://www.darpa.mil/.
From page 124...
... The stages, described in Chapter 4, have considerable overlap in the sense that all researchers, from undergraduates to senior faculty, have interests and motivations in common and benefit from similar kinds of support in addressing interdisciplinary research and education. Convocation Quote When MacArthur selects people to participate in research networks, it is more about their interest to go beyond their own paradigm and to be interested in a collaborative endeavor.
From page 125...
... Such support can be used for additional training, laboratory visits, and coursework. The Burroughs Wellcome Foundation supports an Interfaces in Science program that provides transitional funding for postdoctoral scholars and faculty with backgrounds in physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering who want to explore aspects of biology13 (see Box 6-5)
From page 126...
... The program, titled Career Awards at the Scientific Interface, recogniz es the potential role that physical, chemical, and computational sciences can play in innovative biological fields, such as genomics, quantitative structural biology, systems modeling, and nanotechnology.a In 2002, eight postdoctoral students were awarded grants; in 2003, seven grants were awarded. Like Burroughs Wellcome's original career-awards program,b which was de signed to facilitate the critical transition from postdoctoral training to tenure-track faculty positions, the Scientific Interface program provides $500,000 over 5 years to support 2 years of advanced postdoctoral training and 3 years of a faculty ap pointment.
From page 127...
... , it was patented and com mercialized by Rice University.e a Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology Web page http://cnst.rice.edu/index.cfm. b In the midst of this campaign, Rice University chemists Smalley and Curl with colleague Harold Kroto were awarded the Nobel Prize for their unique work with buckminsterfullerene, clusters of 60 carbon atoms (C60)
From page 128...
... . Janelia Farm, conceived and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is a similar building designed expressly to foster IDR (see Box 6-7)
From page 129...
... a Janelia Farm home page http://www.hhmi.org/janelia/. Accessed April 30, 2004.
From page 130...
... First, they can reform their own mechanisms of review by ensuring adequate breadth among the pool of researchers who review IDR proposals, in addition to the necessary depth of expertise in specific disciplines. Second, they can support additional study and experimentation with current and alternative mechanisms for reviewing IDR.15 Funders might consider, as an example, the multistage process familiar in Europe, where the judgment of disciplinary experts is combined in various ways with the 15In its recent study of NSF funding procedures, the National Association of Public Administration recommended that "NSF ensure that review procedures for interdisciplinary research are transparent" and "NSF establish supplementary review criteria that will help to assess the quality of interdisciplinary effort in those programs where both single and multiple discipline proposals compete for a common pool of funds." NAPA, National Science Foundation: Governance and Management for the Future, April 2004.
From page 131...
... Comments at Convocation on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Janu ary 29, 2004, Washington, D.C., http://www7.nationalacademies.org/interdisciplinary/Con vocation_Agenda.html; "Ten Research Business Models Objectives Cleared by NSTC Sci ence Committee." The Blue Sheet, 2004.
From page 132...
... For example, to support a program in the life sciences, an organization may have to fund mathematics, probability, chemistry, computer science, biomedical engineering, and other relevant fields, as well as biology. By extending and adapting procedures developed earlier to evaluate research proposals for single-discipline topics, funding organizations may 16An example is the rapid effort by NIH to launch a program of vaccine development against agents of bioterrorism.
From page 133...
... The field received a large push when The Whitaker Foundationd was created in 1975. In 1992, the Whitaker Foundation initiated large grant programs designed to help institutions to establish or develop biomedical engineering departments or programs.
From page 134...
... . · Provide funding mechanisms that allow researchers to obtain training in new fields.
From page 135...
... F-2: Funding organizations, including interagency cooperative activi ties, should provide mechanisms that link interdisciplinary research and education and should provide opportunities for broadening train ing for researchers and faculty members. They can · Require institutions that receive IDR funding to demonstrate support for interdisciplinary educational activities, such as team teaching.
From page 136...
... 136 FACILITATING INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH F-4: Congress should continue to encourage federal research agencies to be sensitive to maintaining a proper balance between the goal of stimulating interdisciplinary research and the need to maintain robust disciplinary research.


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