What is Interdisciplinary Research?
The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) started in 2009 as one of a suite of interdisciplinary research institutes at the University of Melbourne. Specifically, the idea for MSSI's establishment has been to develop collaborations between and across its faculties on large public questions about sustainability.
At the MSSI, we engage the support and collaboration of individuals, departments, faculties and centres for our interdisciplinary activities and projects. We believe that a whole-of-research approach is greater than the sum of individual researches, to achieve implementable developments in sustainability for communities.
Each discipline brings rigour, high definition and advances to a specific field of inquiry. But the increase in both specialisation and information in the 20th century has given rise to the 'silo effect'. This is where disciplines and even sub-disciplines become incapable of reciprocal activities, agreement on solutions, or achieving common outcomes.
Yet many environmental and resource management problems today are of such complexity and scale that they cannot be understood or resolved from within a single discipline. They need more innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to achieve continuous and steady improvements in sustainability outcomes.
Multidisciplinary, Interdisciplinary, and Transdisciplinary Research
Interdisciplinary research has a collaborative focus and blends and integrates research between disciplines. Researchers from two or more disciplines work together and create a shared discourse about the research problem. Sometimes this offers a vantage point from which to interrogate the core assumptions of a discipline and to trace or even redraw its boundaries. Recent decades have seen the birth of 'interdisciplines – such as ecological economics and climate adaptation – where an interdisciplinary research project has consolidated to the point of creating a new discipline.
Research can be said to be multidisciplinary, rather than interdisciplinary, when it does not seek to integrate the multiple disciplines involved. The methodologies and assumptions of each discipline are not expressly developed from the interaction with the others. Multidisciplinary teams can work either concurrently or in sequence, but the activities of their respective disciplines run parallel and do not blend.
A transdisciplinary research strategy focuses on problems or issues that cut across the boundaries of two or more disciplines, or fall between them, whatever the nature of the interactions between these disciplines. The aim is to create a unity of knowledge, but not necessarily the development of blended practices and assumptions. Transdisciplinary research will tend to have a 'real world' focus and to include the interests and involvement of third parties such as government and non-government agencies or business in the research.
Graduate Certificate in Advanced Learning and Leadership (GCALL)
GCALL is an interdisciplinary coursework program designed exclusively for doctoral candidates at the University of Melbourne. Its aim is to equip postgraduate researchers with the attributes, understanding and skills for future leadership roles within an internationally-competitive employment environment.
Visit the GCALL Website.
Traffic: a refereed interdisciplinary postgraduate journal published by the Graduate Student Association (GSA)
Interdisciplinary Seed Funding
The University of Melbourne Interdisciplinary Seed Funding Grant Scheme is an initiative of Melbourne Research. This scheme is intended to complement the funding of
University Research Institutes and to further catalyse the drawing together of academic staff from across disciplines to engage in research addressing complex societal challenges.
For a list of the seed funding projects currently funded by MSSI, please visit this page: http://www.sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/content/views/seed_funding
For more on interdisciplinarity research see these downloadable documents: