Interdisciplinary Collaboration Research Brief: Patterns and Practices for Positive Leadership

Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Reports and Publications

From 2012-2015 (as part of the Mellon-funded SPARC project), we interviewed upper-level administration, faculty, and students at 38 member institutions about their arts-integrative and interdisciplinary collaborations. These included partnerships and group collaborations for teaching, research projects, community engagement, or other initiatives. We asked about the challenges they face in interdisciplinary collaboration, both because of disciplinary assumptions and because of university structures that pose obstacles. We also asked how they overcome those challenges, and what advice they have for collaborators.

This report is a synthesis of our findings from that research.

The report offers two different frameworks of interpretation for the same data, two different ways of telling the story. Readers can use whichever framework suits their needs, or consider them in tandem. The first framework follows the logic of the interview questions; it structures the data as a set of challenges and ways forward. In the second framework, we identify and explain four areas that are critical for successful interdisciplinary collaboration. Both frameworks operate at the level of the collaborator—where insights are relevant for faculty, students, researchers, and community partners who are themselves involved in interdisciplinary collaboration—and at the level of the institution—dealing with issues germane to promoting interdisciplinary collaboration through supportive structures, policies, and practices across the university.

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