Barriers and Solutions to Conducting Large International, Interdisciplinary Research Projects.

Published in Environmental Management, v. 60(6):1011-1021

Pischke E.C., Knowlton J.L., Phifer C.C., Gutierrez Lopez J., Propato T.S., Eastmond A., de Souza T.M., Kuhlberg M., Picasso Risso V., Veron S.R., Garcia C., Chiappe M., Halvorsen K.E.

Publication year 2017

Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, USA

IAI Program


IAI Project CRN3105


Global environmental problems such as climate change are not bounded by national borders or scientific disciplines, and therefore require international, interdisciplinary teamwork to develop understandings of their causes and solutions. Interdisciplinary scientific work is difficult enough, but these challenges are often magnified when teams also work across national boundaries. The literature on the challenges of interdisciplinary research is extensive. However, research on international, interdisciplinary teams is nearly non-existent. Our objective is to fill this gap by reporting on results from a study of a large interdisciplinary, international National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education (NSF-PIRE) research project across the Americas. We administered a structured questionnaire to team members about challenges they faced while working together across disciplines and outside of their home countries in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Analysis of the responses indicated five major types of barriers to conducting interdisciplinary, international research: integration, language, fieldwork logistics, personnel and relationships, and time commitment. We discuss the causes and recommended solutions to the most common barriers. Our findings can help other interdisciplinary, international research teams anticipate challenges, and develop effective solutions to minimize the negative impacts of these barriers to their research.