How can higher education institutions promote trans-disciplinary research?

Solutions to real-life problems require a holistic approach that must be studied beyond the limitations of individual disciplines.

Solutions to real-life problems require a holistic approach that must be studied beyond the limitations of individual disciplines.

GGlobal challenges and problems, such as climate change, do not respect disciplines or boundaries. They are universal problems that affect everyone. Therefore, solutions cannot be solved by researchers working in silos. They require a holistic approach involving management and engineering disciplines, legal researchers, architects and designers.

In primary school we only learn maths, English and science. By middle school, science is divided into biology, physics, and chemistry. Moving upwards, biology is divided into zoology, botany and medical science. Chemistry is divided into organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry. Physics into mechanics, optics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism and other branches. However, as we move into higher education and more sophisticated research practices, these specializations and boundaries merge into human and social issues that impact lives, lifestyles, and living environments.

Real life problems are agnostic to the system. Rather, they are interdisciplinary. Therefore, solutions must also cross disciplinary boundaries. Sometimes the disciplinary veils prevent researchers from seeing the big picture and hinder their ability to address larger and more impactful problems that, if solved, would contribute to making the world a better place for all. Ours. Now the question is, what can institutions and universities do to promote such research thinking?

Collaborative approach

Often when institutions operate only one program, it is difficult to achieve the diversity needed to conduct interdisciplinary research. This is why NEP 2020 emphasizes building multidisciplinary research-based universities. Single-disciplinary institutions should collaborate with like-minded organizations and contribute to the diversity of perspectives that arise during collaboration. Holding joint conferences, symposia and colloquia and nurturing and encouraging scholars around integrated research practices can help build such practices and align thinking and research-based action.

For multicultural universities, the first step is to provide physical space and infrastructure for people from different backgrounds to join. The spaces should not be designed in such a way that teachers/researchers from different disciplines are present on different floors/buildings. Providing co-working spaces for them to bond not only fosters bonding, but also creates opportunities and favorable conditions for them to collaborate on various projects. Having professors teach at different schools at the same time, not just physical locations, helps them gain a cross-disciplinary perspective and encourage interdisciplinary research questions.

Centers of excellence

Creating formal centers of excellence that align with the vision of the institutions defines the direction in which research efforts can be channeled. For example, establishing a Center for Law, Regulation and Technology; Center for Inclusive Innovation; Center for Sustainability Research and Advocacy and Center for Financial Markets, all of which integrate different domains and provide a systematic approach for researchers to work with.

Providing seed funding/grants for transdisciplinary projects is another way to promote convergence in research efforts. For example, researchers from economics, management and accounting came together to design a sustainability index, measuring and indicating the level of development of each state in terms of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). People from different fields can work together to increase the income of the villages around their universities. Conducting a baseline assessment, working with small and small farmers on agriculture and soil quality control, maintaining water levels in villages, starting projects to better control waste, installing solar panels and working together to provide electricity requires several disciplines. Getting funds and mandates from institutional management will encourage these initiatives. Special recognition for research papers co-authored and prepared for publication by scholars from different disciplines encourages interdisciplinary research. PhD and Masters programs may be designed to be more interdisciplinary.

Institutions of higher education have a significant role to play in promoting interdisciplinary research. This can be done by first, setting a clear intention to do so. Second, by sponsoring integrated projects, creating centers of excellence and creating opportunities to expand such research, designing physical spaces that do not create barriers to cross-disciplinary research opportunities.

Jaskiran Arora is Dean, School of Management, BML Munjal University. Ritu Chikara is Associate Professor, School of Management, BML Munjal University.


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