The evolution of interdisciplinarity over 20 years of global change research by the IAI

Report prepared by Jeremy Pittman, Holm Tiessen, and Elma Montaña (March 16, 2015)foto1

Global change is pervasive, cutting across human and natural systems. Global change research aiming to comprehend the feedbacks within and across social and ecological systems, and to inform decision making must therefore integrate across social and natural sciences. Through questionnaires and interviews with former and current recipients of grants and the analysis of institutional documents, we show that the promotion of interdisciplinarity requires more than changing the requirements of funding calls.

Successes have relied on leveraging and linking the motivations of natural and social scientists with the needs and motivations of practitioners and policy makers. The motivations for an integration between disciplines have been developed by

(1) providing space for experiential learning by researchers,
(2) facilitating networking and teamwork across disciplines,
(3) exposing researchers to new concepts or tools that support interdisciplinarity,
(4) maintaining persistent mentorship and support for cultivating cross-disciplinary thinking, and
(5) connecting research to tangible problems. This paper describes the cumulative experience of 20 years of motivating and monitoring interdisciplinary research, providing an environment for learning across disciplines, and structuring research programs to advance knowledge to inform decision making on responses to global change.

IAI report (PDF)

A paper on this study has been published in Sustainability science, Volume 19, April 2016, Pages 87–93: The evolution of interdisciplinarity over 20 years of global change research by the IAI