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5 How Academic Institutions Can Facilitate Interdisciplinary Research
Pages 84-113

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From page 84...
... A VISION FOR INSTITUTIONS THAT WISH TO PROMOTE INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH Ideas for IDR may be generated from the bottom up, by individual researchers who want to cross disciplinary boundaries alone or in collaboration with others, or from the top down, by institutions and funding organizations that initiate and support research and teaching. This chapter discusses both approaches from the point of view of the institution.
From page 85...
... One study notes that "interdisciplinary centers need not only to be well-funded but to have an independent physical location and intellectual direction apart from traditional university departments."2 Over half of the institutions represented in the committee's survey provided "venture capital" for interdisciplinary work. Amounts provided ranged from $1,000 to $1 million, but centered at $10,000-50,000 (Figure 5-2)
From page 86...
... . The top three recommendations for institutions from survey respondents were to foster a collaborative environment, to provide faculty incentives including hiring and tenure policies that reflect and reward involvement in IDR, and to provide seed money for IDR projects (Figure 5-3)
From page 87...
... 87 i ive in Bald (2002) , ement Pharmacy A., interdiscipl collaborat departments F
From page 88...
... As a result, the institutional leadership needs to evaluate proposals for new activities carefully to ensure that they are not just satisfactory but outstanding. Some key mechanisms for doing so are to focus resources on activities with long-term implications and to involve high-quality senior faculty and promising junior faculty.
From page 89...
... Survey respondents were asked to describe evaluation methods used by their institutions to evaluate interdisciplinary programs. The predominant ones cited were internal and external visiting committees and informal feedback (see Figure 5-4)
From page 90...
... · Control of space or capital-intensive facilities. · Agreement on standards for recruiting and evaluating faculty with joint appointments.5 Among the top recommendations for departments listed by survey respondents were adopting new organizational approaches, recognition of faculty and researchers for interdisciplinary work, and adapting departmental resources and support for IDR (see Figure 5-5)
From page 91...
... startup times to arrange equipment, staffing, or infrastructure. Participants must delve deeply into another language and culture at the outset of a project.6 Yet the policies and procedures specified by funding organizations and major universities do not always accommodate that need.
From page 92...
... Institutions used multiple forms, the predominant methods being internal and external visiting committees, informal feedback, and PI assessment. Trends in evaluation methods reported by individuals and provosts were similar, but 37 percent of individual respondents were not aware of institutional evaluation policies.
From page 93...
... A study that examined the interdisciplinary centers of major universities reported that "universities are failing to `walk the walk' -- or even to comprehend fully what doing so would entail."9 Still, some universities have begun to implement reforms, and it is on these new experiments and procedures that the present report focuses. As suggested in Chapter 4, the needs of students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty change as they advance through the stages of a research career.
From page 94...
... That theme was echoed in recommendations to funding agencies, professional societies, and researchers themselves. One director called IDR "a body-contact sport -- people have to be running into each other to make it work."a To that end, several academic institutions have designed research centers with architectural features that promote collaboration, from cafeterias to shared laboratory space.
From page 95...
... Comments made at Convocation on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Washington, D.C., January 29, 2004. b Pierre Wiltzius, director, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Uni versity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
From page 96...
... · Undergraduate research programs: The variety of research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) is increasing rapidly, and students have responded with strong interest.11 · Topics of high societal relevance: Offering courses or programs on such topics may attract a different mix of students, including those who want to perform research of practical use.
From page 97...
... All these concepts are pulled together into a single laboratory course, which is going to be expanded by units on material science, computational biology, neuroscience, and biophysics, in which students will navi gate from module to module across the involved departments. The plan is to weave research and interdisciplinary work completely into the fabric of the curriculum of all the science departments.
From page 98...
... · Additional academic recognition and funding that allow graduate students in IDR to anticipate prospects for advancement equal to those of single-discipline students. · Graduate IDR internships, including assistance in finding appropriate academic "homes"; these are needed when departments are unable or unwilling to accommodate researchers doing interdisciplinary work.
From page 99...
... Junior Faculty Junior faculty can benefit from many of the same research opportunities as postdoctoral scholars. In addition, modest institutional changes can help them to overcome departmental or professional barriers: · Institutional funding for junior faculty positions can include more flexible teaching placement.
From page 100...
... The prevailing academic cultures and struc tures tend to replicate existing areas of expertise, reward individual effort rather than collaborative work, limit hiring input to a single department in a single school or college, and limit incentives and rewards for interdisciplinary and collaborative work. The provost invited proposals from faculty that identify promising subjects for faculty collaboration.
From page 101...
... Accessed April 30, 2004. bCluster Hiring Initiative Program Overview and Guidelines, Office of the Provost, Uni versity of Wisconsin.
From page 102...
... · Providing more opportunities for faculty to learn from students and postdoctoral scholars in other fields. · Using seed money to fund sabbaticals and visiting-scholar grants for faculty to work in multidisciplinary groups.
From page 103...
... Awardees meet monthly to make presentations and give progress reports, and their advice is solicited by the vice provost on ways to break down barriers to IDR. · Specific Guidelines: USC has added explicit language in its promotions and review criteria for interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching, and IDR was specifically addressed in the provost's cover letter with the guidelines.c Within the guidelines, specific points address IDR: If a candidate's scholarship is interdisciplinary, the department and school should take special care to evaluate the work properly.
From page 104...
... About 130 faculty are affiliated with the institute, with some 400-450 graduate students, 200-300 undergraduate students, and 70-80 postdoctoral fellows. A staff of 60-70 provide technical and administrative support.
From page 105...
... Incentives and Rewards One cause of turf battles between departments is that deans, department chairs, and other administrators are rewarded for strengthening their own departments, not for building links to others. Institutions can reward leaders for initiating interdisciplinary programs and can provide incentives for departments to share indirect cost revenues, seed money, course-credit
From page 106...
... Uma Chowdhry, vice president for Central Research and Development, DuPont Budget Reforms Most major universities have developed decentralized budgeting models in which the lion's share of resources flows to schools, departments, and other units. This leaves relatively few resources to be used for "the com 14An example of such a policy could be seen until recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the administration allowed the use of the old Building 20 as a home for new, often interdisciplinary.
From page 107...
... aMartin Schoonen, Associate Vice President for Research and Professor of Geochemis try, State University of New York, Stony Brook. Comments at the Convocation on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Washington, DC.
From page 108...
... has the key role in supporting interdisciplinary programs, with an enrollment-based funding formula for administrative support of graduate groups. A few years ago, the formula was updated with a system of matching funds between the OGS and the college deans with the understanding that future matches by the college deans would come from their own budgets.
From page 109...
... . CONCLUSIONS It is possible for administrators of academic institutions to create supportive environments and policy structures that allow researchers to do their best -- including interdisciplinary researchers, who face the special challenges summarized above.16 16See Holton, G., Chang, H., and Jurkowitz, E
From page 110...
... Leaders with clear vision and effective communica tion and team-building skills can catalyze the integration of disciplines. RECOMMENDATIONS Academic Institutions' Policies I-1: Academic institutions should develop new and strengthen exist ing policies and practices that lower or remove barriers to interdiscipli nary research and scholarship, including developing joint programs with industry and government and nongovernment organizations.
From page 111...
... · Create specific IDR grants and training programs for distinct career stages to assist in learning new disciplines and participating in IDR programs. · Create mechanisms to fund graduate students and postdoctoral scholars whose research draws on multiple fields and may not be considered central to any one department.
From page 112...
... Such education and training could cover interdisciplinary research techniques, interdisciplinary team management skills, methods for teaching nonmajors, etc. For example, institutions can · Provide more opportunities for undergraduate interdisciplinary research experiences.
From page 113...
... For example, team leaders can · Catalyze the skillful design of research plans and the integration of knowledge and skills in multiple disciplines rather than "stapling together" similar or overlapping proposals. · Establish early agreements on research methods, goals and timelines, and regular meetings.


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