Five ways to support interdisciplinary work before tenure

  • Melinda Harm Benson
  • Christopher D. Lippitt
  • Ryan Morrison
  • Barbara Cosens
  • Jan Boll
  • Brian C. Chaffin
  • Alexander K. Fremier
  • Robert Heinse
  • Derek Kauneckis
  • Timothy E. Link
  • Caroline E. Scruggs
  • Mark Stone
  • Vanessa Valentin
Article

Abstract

Academic institutions often claim to promote interdisciplinary teaching and research. Prescriptions for successfully engaging in interdisciplinary efforts, however, are usually directed at the individuals doing the work rather than the institutions evaluating them for the purpose of tenure and promotion. Where institutional recommendations do exist, they are often general in nature and lacking concrete guidance. Here, we draw on our experiences as students and faculty participating in three interdisciplinary water resource management programs in the USA to propose five practices that academic institutions can adopt to effectively support interdisciplinary work. We focus on reforms that will support pre-tenure faculty because we believe that an investment in interdisciplinary work early in one’s career is both particularly challenging and seldom rewarded. Recommended reforms include (1) creating metrics that reward interdisciplinary scholarship, (2) allowing faculty to “count” teaching and advising loads in interdisciplinary programs, (3) creating a “safe fail” for interdisciplinary research proposals and projects, (4) creating appropriate academic homes for interdisciplinary programs, and (5) rethinking “advancement of the discipline” as a basis for promotion and tenure.

Keywords

Interdisciplinary Transdisciplinary Tenure Coupled Human Natural Systems 

References

  1. Adams J, Jackson L, Marshall S (2007) Bibliometric analysis of interdisciplinary research. Report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, LeedsGoogle Scholar
  2. Ausburg T (2006) Becoming interdisciplinary: an introduction to interdisciplinary studies, 2nd edn. Kendall/Hunt, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Chandramohan B, Fallows S (2009) Interdisciplinary learning and teaching in higher education: theory and practice. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Biermann F, Abbott KW, Andresen S, Bäckstrand K, Bernstein S, Betsill M (2012) Navigating the Anthropocene: improving earth system governance. Science 335:1306–1307Google Scholar
  5. Campbell LM (2005) Overcoming obstacles to interdisciplinary research. Con Bio 19:574–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cosens B, Fiedler F, Boll J, Higgins H, Johnson G, Kennedy B, Laflin M, Strand E, Wilson P (2011) Interdisciplinary methods in water resources: communication across disciplines. Issues in Integrative Studies 29:118–143Google Scholar
  7. COSEPUP (Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy) (2004) Facilitating interdisciplinary research. The National Academies Press., Washington DC: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309094356/html.
  8. Harnad S (2004) The invisible hand of peer review. In: Shatz B (ed) Peer review: a critical inquiry. Rowland & Littlefield, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Harnad S (2008) Validating research performance metrics against peer rankings. Ethics in Sci and Envir Pol 8:11Google Scholar
  10. Heberlein TA (1988) Improving interdisciplinary research: integrating the social and natural sciences. Soc & Nat Res 1:5–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Henderson M, Shurville S, Fernstrom K (2009) The quantitative crunch. Campus-Wide Information Systems 26(3):149–67. doi:10.1108/10650740910967348 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hirsch JE (2005) An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 102:16569–72. doi:10.1073/pnas.0507655102 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ioannidis JPA, Boyack KW, Small H, Sorensen AA, Klavans R (2014) Bibliometrics: is your most cited work your best? Nature 514:7524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Khagram S, Nicholas K, Bever J, Warren EH, Richards K, Oleson J, Kitzes R, Katz R, Hwang R, Goldman J, Funk DM, Brauman KA (2010) Thinking about knowing: conceptual foundations for interdisciplinary environmental research. Environ Conserv 37(4):388–397Google Scholar
  15. Klein JT (1990) Interdisciplinarity: history, theory, and practice. Wayne State University, DetroitGoogle Scholar
  16. Liu J, Dietz T, Carpenter SR, Alberti M, Folke C, Moran E, Pell AN et al (2007) Complexity of coupled human and natural systems. Science 317:1513–1516Google Scholar
  17. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and human well-being: synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. National Science Foundation (2014) Dynamics of coupled natural and human systems (CNH). Program Solicitation NSF 14–601Google Scholar
  19. Powell N, Larsen RK (2013) Integrated water resource management: a platform for higher education institutions to meet complex sustainability challenges. Environ Ed Res 19:458–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Repko AF (2011) Interdisciplinary research: process and theory, 2nd edn. Repko Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, Allen FGoogle Scholar
  21. Rhoten D, Parker A (2004) Risks and rewards of an interdisciplinary research path. Science 306(5704):2046CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Wolinsky H (2011) Will we wake up to biodiversity? EMBO Rep 12:1226–1229CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melinda Harm Benson
    • 1
  • Christopher D. Lippitt
    • 1
  • Ryan Morrison
    • 2
  • Barbara Cosens
    • 3
  • Jan Boll
    • 4
  • Brian C. Chaffin
    • 5
  • Alexander K. Fremier
    • 6
  • Robert Heinse
    • 7
  • Derek Kauneckis
    • 8
  • Timothy E. Link
    • 9
  • Caroline E. Scruggs
    • 10
  • Mark Stone
    • 11
  • Vanessa Valentin
    • 11
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental Studies MSC01 1110 1University of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.College of LawUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  4. 4.Civil and Environmental EngineeringWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  5. 5.College of Forestry and ConservationUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  6. 6.School of the EnvironmentWashington State UniversityMissoulaUSA
  7. 7.Department of Soil PhysicsUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  8. 8.Voinovich School of Leadership and Public AffairsOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  9. 9.Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Fire SciencesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  10. 10.Community and Regional PlanningUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  11. 11.College of Civil EngineeringUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

Personalised recommendations