, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 407–440 | Cite as

The Snowbird Charrette: Integrative Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Environmental Research Design



The integration of ideas, methods, and data from diverse disciplines has been a transformative force in science and higher education, attracting policy interventions, program innovations, financial resources, and talented people. Much energy has been invested in producing a new generation of scientists trained to work fluidly across disciplines, sectors, and research problems, yet the success of such investments has been difficult to measure. Using the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program of the U.S. National Science Foundation as a strategic research site, we conducted an experiment to determine whether and how the process and products of research of IGERT-trained scientists differ from those of scientists trained in disciplinary graduate programs. Among scientists in the early years of graduate study we found substantial and consistent differences suggesting that interdisciplinary training improved the quality and process of research, but this pattern was equally strongly reversed among students in the latter years of graduate study. Using systematic observation and other data we suggest why this might be so, then discuss the implications of these results for the design and conduct of graduate education and research.


Science policy Graduate education Research Experiment IGERT 



We thank the National Science Foundation for grant EREC-035535 in support of this research. Insightful comments on various drafts of this paper were offered by Geoff Bowker, Jim Collins, Jim Dietz, Woody Powell, Jim Reichman, Frank Scioli, among others. The charrette would have been impossible without the excellent assistance of Chris Bail, Dave Conz, Sarah Damaske, Ingrid Erickson, Erin O’Connor, Aaron Panofsky, Andrew Parker, John Parker, Lauren Rivera, David Schleifer, and, especially, Rachel Tronstein.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Social Science Research CouncilBrooklynUSA

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