The Debate

After the formal presentations, the speakers came together as a panel to answer questions from the audience. Topics included: UK-European approaches; non-conventional research groups; and diversity.

How does innovation, as viewed by UKRI, differ from interdisciplinarity in Europe? The culture fostered by UKRI, through its values, grants, rewards and training projects, is inherently innovative given the interdisciplinary environment it has created and within which it operates. Compared to Europe, the UK values and promotes a more interdisciplinary research culture, as opposed to a traditional way of thinking about in research. However, a comparison to European funding systems and criteria may not be entirely appropriate since one is comparing an individual country to a body made up of 28 different countries. However, ties and collaboration with Europe must be maintained.

The inclusion of non-conventional research groups, as part of interdisciplinary research projects, provides a great opportunity to bring diverse fresh perspectives and disruptive thinking into various contexts. However, non-conventional groups may sometimes lack the rigour and level of professionalism required to operate within a research system.

In order for the research and innovation system to be more inclusive, selection criteria must be amended and broadened to allow people from different disciplines to access research and thus promote interdisciplinarity. For instance, while it may be essential to bring finance as a discipline into various research contexts, the way that finance is researched academically, as compared to other disciplines, may make integration a challenge.

Diversity has a key role in an interdisciplinary environment. Even though diversity can bring forward opinions from opposing poles, these disagreements are essential in supporting interdisciplinary discourse and driving innovation. Ethnic diversity should be celebrated as it provides fresh perspectives and disruptive thinking, feeding into an ever more inclusive and constructive interdisciplinary discourse. Diversity also goes hand in hand with other essential elements that are needed to drive innovation, such as imagination, creativity, trust, respect and empathy.

Other topics raised included the recognition and reward of roles that coordinated interdisciplinarity, in a research context for instance. These roles should be recognised and rewarded as they are an essential element driving the system. Freedom of speech is important in a research context, while also protecting psychological safety in interdisciplinary environments.


FST Podcast: Interdisciplinary research – Podcast with Professor James Wilsdon, Director of the Research on Research Institute, University of Sheffield