A study of faculty perceptions and engagement with interdisciplinary research in university sustainability institutes

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Bolger, Paul
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Springer Nature Switzerland AG
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It has long been argued that solutions to inform better decisions on environmental challenges require research at the boundaries of scientific disciplines. Research institutes and centers at universities can be key vehicles for the convergence of scientists from multiple disciplines and the development of integrated, interdisciplinary knowledge. Through a survey of over two hundred faculty in three sustainability research institutes based in the USA, this study explored faculty perceptions of interdisciplinary research, their levels of engagement in interdisciplinary work, and how they view the role of the research institute in enabling interdisciplinary research. The investigation shows that over 95% of faculty at the institutes studied are carrying out research with colleagues outside their own discipline, with half of the faculty spending more than two-thirds of their time on interdisciplinary work. Over half of faculty members are engaging in long-distance interdisciplinary research across the natural-social sciences boundary which is seen as crucial for sustainability science. The research institutes are having a positive influence on facilitating interdisciplinarity with more than four out of five faculty indicating that the institute has enabled interdisciplinary research opportunities that would have not have been possible in their home school. The opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary research is among the most important reasons for faculty to join institutes. While limited to three institutes, the study provides robust evidence for the powerfully beneficial role that research institutes can play as enablers on interdisciplinary research within their university.
Environmental , Interdisciplinarity , Interdisciplinary , Research centers , Research institutes , Sustainability
Bolger, P. (2021) 'A study of faculty perceptions and engagement with interdisciplinary research in university sustainability institutes', Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 11(1), pp. 115-129. doi: 10.1007/s13412-020-00616-7
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© 2020, AESS. Published by Springer Nature Switzerland AG. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-020-00616-7