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University efforts to support interdisciplinary research: Leadership and unintended consequences


Pisapia, J and Townsend, AC and Razzaq, J, University efforts to support interdisciplinary research: Leadership and unintended consequences, University of Glasgow, 2013-03 (2013) [Consultants Report]

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The aim of this working paper is to describe the nature of actions to foster interdisciplinary research efforts at a major United Kingdom university. The focus was placed on the structures and processes that strengthen and inhibit interdisciplinary research in universities through the lens of leadership theory. The study employed a descriptive mixed method case study approach to collecting and analyzing the data used to draw its conclusions. A survey was constructed around dispositions, processes and practices, which facilitate or impede interdisciplinary research, gathered from the literature and initial interviews. The survey included open ended questions from which narrative data were collected. One hundred and twenty seven academic staff responded to the survey. The results of the survey were verified by 25 interviews with heads of colleges, heads of schools, research coordinators, research team leaders, and team members. These interviews were supported by document review to support the findings and draw conclusions from the study. Leadership is important. The ability to establish direction, alignment and commitment, and develop community is often the difference between success and failure. At the University direction has been established, commitment is partially established, but alignment and community development lag behind. There seems to be a working consensus recognising the importance of interdisciplinary research to solve the most intractable societal problems. There is less of a consensus as to whether the approach to accomplishing this should be forced or engineered. Good leadership and good decision making is required for interdisciplinary research to thrive. The University has done well with most of the big structures that enrich and support interdisciplinarity, institutes, centres and networks. Positive examples are noted in the text. However, the prevailing position is that clusters have made management easier but has not necessarily supported teaching and research. In this effort ‘small’ structures such as clarity of meaning, motivation of staff, misalignment of old structures, time and workload, and loss of identify have impeded the move to university wide interdisciplinarity. Three recommendations are suggested to move the interdisciplinary project forward: stay clear on focus, extend the benefits of serendipity to more people, and remember that one size does not fit all.

Item Details

Item Type:Consultants Report
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Other education
Research Field:Other education not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Other education and training
Objective Field:Other education and training not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Townsend, AC (Professor Tony Townsend)
ID Code:94588
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2014-09-12
Last Modified:2014-09-12
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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