, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 23–46 | Cite as

Strategically Unclear? Organising Interdisciplinarity in an Excellence Programme of Interdisciplinary Research in Denmark

  • Katrine LindvigEmail author
  • Line Hillersdal


While interdisciplinarity is not a new concept, the political and discursive mobilisation of interdisciplinarity is. Since the 1990s, this movement has intensified, and this has affected central funding bodies so that interdisciplinarity is now a de facto requirement in successful grant application. As a result, the literature is ripe with definitions, taxonomies, discussions and other attempts to grasp and define the concept of interdisciplinarity. In this paper, we explore how strategic demands for interdisciplinarity meet, interact with and change local research practices and results of higher education and research. Our aim is to question and trace the consequences of applying the slippery and difficult term interdisciplinarity in research. The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork in a Danish interdisciplinary research programme, where we observed and analysed practices of writing, publishing, collaboration and educational development in five different research projects. We show how the call for interdisciplinarity was mobilised in a way that rendered the incentives and motives behind the programme unclear. Furthermore, we argue that the absence of clear definitions and assessment criteria produced a dominant, all-inclusive, but vague, configuration of interdisciplinarity that affected the research outcome, and ultimately, promoted and reproduced the existing monodisciplinary research and power structures.


Interdisciplinarity Strategic funding Research programme Research evaluation Higher education Denmark Ethnographic research Policy concepts 



This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork that was made possible by grants from the University of Copenhagen’s Excellence Programme for Interdisciplinary Research. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the members of the research projects involved, and of the individual respondents who contributed to the research. Thanks also to Professor Catherine Lyall and Dr Erika Szymanski for sharing ideas, comments and suggestions throughout the writing process. Finally, we would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for constructively engaging with our work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science Education, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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