Interdisciplinarity and Research Creativity: New ways of generating impact


Interdisciplinarity is an increasingly relevant concept in science and innovation. Universities worldwide have started to install interdisciplinary centers during the last 15 years (BioX at Stanford University). Interdisciplinary research has the potential to address ‘grand challenges’ that are gaining importance in current times of uncertainty and interdependence. Interdisciplinary research facilitates radical innovation due to its potential to link hitherto unconnected streams of knowledge. It shapes completely new scientific fields such as synthetic biology and neuroeconomics thus transforming the landscape of science.

Despite its positive impact, existing studies show that scientists who work in interdisciplinary fields find it harder to get funding, publish their results and pursue their career. It takes longer to get appointed as a professor. Recent research proves that highly ranked journals favor mono-disciplinary work. Consensual criteria to evaluate interdisciplinary research are not yet established.

The project sheds light on this tension between the promotion of interdisciplinarity and disciplinary structures in the German science system. In the first phase of the project (08/2017 to 03/2019) coping strategies for this tension were identified. In expert workshops and interviews good practice examples for the implementation of interdisciplinary research were found.

In the second phase of the project (05/2019 to 09/2023), success factors of leading interdisciplinary centers in the USA, Great Britain, and Israel will be analysed. We are also developing an interactive webinar for interdisciplinary knowledge transfer. The focus is on building "interdisciplinary competencies" for researchers. The webinar will be developed along different subject areas (career, research process, communication, open science) and for different target groups (e.g. scientists, transfer addressees).