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Demystifying Interdisciplinary Working

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 12 August 2020

Valuing Nature Paper | June 2020

Editor: Professor Nicky Beaumont, Head of Science: Sea and Society, Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Co-Director of UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

The Valuing Nature Programme, a five year programme thar aims to better understand and represent the complexities of the natural environment in valuation analyses and decision making. It will consider the economic, societal and cultural value of ecosystem services. 

In this time of unprecedented change, to be successful in managing and finding solutions to the complex issues of the day, from pandemics, to climate change, to biodiversity loss,  transformative approaches are needed. Thinking in individual disciplinary terms is as crucial as ever in order to progress specialist approaches. However, to address the complex technical, societal and environmental challenges we also need to break down the disciplinary silos, think outside the usual boxes, and bring a broad range of approaches together to best understand and provide solutions to these challenges.

This report aims to clarify why interdisciplinary working is needed now more than ever, what interdisciplinarity is, and how it can be successfully achieved and sustained.

The report includes 7 Principles for Interdisciplinary Working, which are simple to follow but crucial to success.  It goes further to provide suggestions for what needs to be done to make interdisciplinary working the norm rather than the exception.

The intended audience is broad - both specialists and non-specialists with an interest in working beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries and across the science-policy interface will find this report of interest.  It is, after all true, that interdisciplinary working can just as equally occur between a government official and a biologist, as between an economist and an artist

Whilst Interdisciplinary working is universally accepted as challenging the resultant benefits are equally acknowledged as substantial. For academics it can be stimulating and lead to ground breaking collaborations; for user groups it can radically improve the relevance of answers provided to difficult questions; and for research commissioners it can drive the development of impactful proposals and projects.   

In this report we begin by discussing why interdisciplinary processes are particularly relevant at this time. Section 2 provides a “how to” for undertaking successful interdisciplinary working, including top tips. Section 3 provides the current understanding of terms and definitions surrounding interdisciplinarity. Sections 4—6 provide an overview of the positives, negatives, barriers and solutions of interdisciplinary working









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