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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

IAS Staff

Publication details for Professor Veronica Strang

McLeish, T. & Strang, V. (2014). Leading Interdisciplinary Research: transforming the academic landscape. Stimulus Paper. Leadership Foundation.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper considers the complex challenges entailed in leading and developing interdisciplinary research (IDR) and suggests that, while structural support is vital, cultural change may be equally critical. It argues that, while IDR is commonly encouraged in rather utilitarian terms, as helpful in addressing complex societal and
environmental issues, there are deeper intellectual reasons for fostering collaborative research across disciplinary boundaries. The comparison, exchange and synthesis of specialised systems of knowledge can be transformational, enabling new ways of thinking about and conducting research. Emphasising the overarching unity of
the academy, the paper argues that successful IDR has the potential to reunite areas of knowledge that have fragmented over time. It examines some interdisciplinary experiments in the UK, and considers how the participants have navigated the obstacles that attend each stage of collaboration to produce exciting and coherent outcomes. Articulating the practices and principles that underlie successful IDR, it discusses how universities can assist such research developments, both in practical ways and through cultural and ideological change.

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