Notes from Monthly Conversation: Fostering Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research

a2ru News

March 18, 2019

On Friday, February 22, 2019, the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) streamed the second segment of their Monthly Conversations Series, “Fostering Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research”.

Maryrose Flanigan, a2ru Director, facilitated the dialogue between three experienced panelists working with interdisciplinary incentive programs. These panelists included: Debra MexicotteArtsEngine Managing Director at the University of Michigan; Valerie JohnsonMCubed Managing Director at the University of Michigan, and Emily Ryan, Director of The Commons at the University of Kansas.

The topics within the conversation ranged from successful strategies to pitfalls and challenges of working with interdisciplinary.In implementing interdisciplinary work, one shared challenge of this panel was defining interdisciplinarity. The term is often interpreted differently which can create confusion and uncooperative behavior by others. At times, this can compromise funding and traction for the program.

Johnson emphasized the vitality “buy-in” holds in order to establish an effective and efficient program such as MCubed. However, buy-in must be present at all institutional levels  – administrative, faculty, and students. Ryan then stated that while The Commons at the University of Kansas is fairly new, it gained traction through “word of mouth” by students curious to learn about interdisciplinary opportunities such the Red Hot Research Series. Other key elements for program success included the utilization of connections or relationships, the timing of the program, and availability. Future actions to promote collaboration could include investing in updating faculty profiles, planned ideation gathering, and understanding the value of using both qualitative and quantitative information.

As views toward interdisciplinary collaboration are changing in a positive manner, the need for collaborative spaces to interact will continue to grow. Please join us next time on April 9, 2019 for our next webinar session about the integration of the arts and humanities in STEMM. This session will be hosted in cooperation with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine as well as the American Association of Colleges and Universities.