Successful Interdisciplinary Research: Case Studies from the Earth Institute

Lead PI: Hayley Martinez , Alix Schroder , , Kaitlyn Coomes
August 2019 - January 2020
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The purpose of this was to develop a set of case studies on interdisciplinary research projects at the Earth Institute, to showcase some best practices and share lessons learned, with the goal of facilitating more of this type of work and breaking down barriers or challenges. These case studies were developed by interviewing Principal Investigators (PIs) who have either completed or attempted interdisciplinary research or practice-oriented (transdisciplinary) projects.

OUTCOMES: Fifteen interviews were conducted across Earth Institute researchers. Across all of the interviews, a number of best practices emerged: it is useful to account for the time it will take at the beginning of a project for members of each discipline to learn the language and data types of the other disciplines; having conversations with researchers from other disciplines is where the ideas for many interdisciplinary projects are born; take the time at the beginning of the project to explicitly outline the expected tasks and deliverables from each involved member; having regular, in-person meetings is vital; if possible, allow some room in project planning for any new issues or discoveries that arise during the project, or policy/behavioral changes that could be developed further.

There were also two common challenges that stood out across many of the interviews: it is difficult to locate opportunities for funding in interdisciplinary work and it is also challenging to find a journal to publish results in.