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Best Practices & Resources for Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations

What is Interdisciplinary Research? – The National Academies’ report “Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research” (2004) defined it as: “a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.”

Start with the Problem – The problem is something which no single discipline has been able to resolve, and which seems to interface across multiple fields.  Make sure each collaborator understands how the problem involves their area of research.

Build your Team – It is good to have people who can play key roles such as Facilitator, Visionary, Mediator, and members who are technically strong in the component areas.

Take time to learn the Lingo – Don’t assume your collaborators understand the language of your field.  This even applies to terms that two or more fields use that on the surface mean the same thing.  They may carry layers of meaning that differ depending on who uses them and how.

Be Flexible & don’t assume anything –  Take time early on to have everyone (1) describe the project for the team as they would explain it to an outsider and (2) say what they hope to get out of the project.  This is a good way to uncover conceptual disconnects.

Publications – Since different disciplines may have different standards or disclosures, be sure to discuss how publications will be handled by the group.

History of working together – Even brief periods of collaboration prior to submitting proposals can help you figure out whether and how you might be able to work together, and makes funding agencies more comfortable with the idea that you can deliver on what you promise.

Reach out for assistance – Interdisciplinarity often requires intense collaboration early on, and working with people at UMBC can make that much easier. Below are some UMBC groups involved in interdisciplinary research.

 

Campus Resources:

  • The Office of Research Development offers a variety of services including internal seed grants, training, and proposal review.  ORD works to introduce potential collaborators, within and beyond the university, and to help promising collaborations find early resources to establish preliminary results.
  • The Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Consulting (CIRC) provides research with Mathematical and Statistical consulting services.
  • The High Performance Computing Facility (HPCF) is UMBC’s community-based, interdisciplinary core facility for scientific computing and research on parallel algorithms.
  • Interdisciplinary Studies welcomes students with diverse academic interests to explore the possibilities of bridging disciplines, widening perspectives, discovering connections and merging knowledge.  Through these interactions, they become aware of faculty who cross disciplines.  They are a resource for potential UMBC collaborative faculty in other research interest.
  • The Imaging Research Center (IRC) collaborates extensively with researchers from many other disciplines. Recent projects include topics as wide-ranging as “usdemocrazy,” “Playing Pericles: Shakespeare for Social Change,” and “Visualizing Early Washington D.C.”
  • UMBC Core Facilities: exist to provide research expensive research to the campus community which would otherwise be out of reach of individual investigators or departments.
  • if you lead another campus resource which would like to be listed here, please email ord@umbc.edu.

 

UMBC Departments Expressing an Interest in Interdisciplinary Collaborations:

  • Department of Information Systems, including their research groups in Human-Centered Computing, Information Retrieval, and Information Behavior.
  • The Department of Geography and Environmental Studies have inherently interdisciplinary pursuits; their faculty have strong interest and experience in interdisciplinary work and welcome greater opportunities to work together across UMBC’s faculty and students.
  • if you lead another department or campus unit which would like to be listed here, please email ord@umbc.edu. 

 

Interdisciplinary Funding Opportunities:

 

References: 

 

Your input is welcomed.   Please forward any comments and recommendations to ord@umbc.edu.