10 tips for developing interdisciplinary socio-ecological researchers

Image credit: Kelly et al. 2019

Polymath - A person of wide knowledge or learning

Research has become increasingly specialised - we focus on a particular discipline, then a particular field within that discipline, then a topic within that field. At the same time, knowledge is being produced at an increasingly rapid rate; IBM predicted that by 2020 world knowledge would double every 12 hours. What does this mean? Well first, it seems unlikely that a single person will ever have a wide enough knowledge base to be considered a polymath anymore. It also means that to address the research challenges society faces today and, in the future, we are reliant on teams of researchers working together to address questions that span multiple disciplines – we need to do interdisciplinary research.

Interdisciplinarity – Different disciplines working together to integrate interdisciplinary knowledge and methods, to develop and meet shared research goals achieving a real synthesis of approaches

This might sound relatively straightforward, but to achieve interdisciplinarity we need to address the significant challenge of bringing together many different perspectives and approaches to research, in institutional settings that don’t often support interdisciplinary approaches. The next generation of researchers will be of fundamental importance to address many of society’s biggest problems, so if the current set up supports discipline-specific training, how can early career researchers learn to be effective in the interdisciplinary space?

Our new paper out in Socio-Ecological Practice Research brought together advice from 13 established interdisciplinary experts from around the world to develop 10 tips on how to develop as an interdisciplinary researcher. These tips ranged from ‘Be patient’ to ‘Collaborate widely’ and can all be found in the infographic. To find out more, you can check out the article.

Kirsty Nash
Kirsty Nash
Past member