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Enabling Interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity Project King’s Learning Institute King’s College, London. The session. Clarify what might be meant by interdisciplinarity Identify the key issues in interdisciplinary practice Audit own organisation’s structures and processes

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Enabling Interdisciplinarity

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Enabling interdisciplinarity

Enabling Interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinarity Project

King’s Learning Institute

King’s College, London

The session

The session

  • Clarify what might be meant by interdisciplinarity

  • Identify the key issues in interdisciplinary practice

  • Audit own organisation’s structures and processes

  • Evaluate their effectiveness

  • Explore costs and benefits of possible alternatives

  • Formulate an action plan

  • Consider issues in the process of change



  • As both teaching and research are increasingly interdisciplinary, how do universities successfully lead and manage this complex process?

  • Effective collaborative relationships hard to establish

  • Structural problems to surmount

  • Socio-cultural and epistemological differences

Forms and practices of disciplinarity

Forms and practices of disciplinarity

  • basic characteristics

  • shared theories or ideologies

  • common techniques

  • socio-cultural characteristics (Becher, 1990)

A discipline

A discipline

“ any comparatively self-contained and isolated domain of human experience which possesses its own community of experts”

(Nissani, 1997)

Knowledge, methodology, community



“a means of solving problems and answering questions that cannot be satisfactorily addressed using single methods or approaches”(Klein, 1990)

Requires integration

Issues in interdisciplinary work

Issues in interdisciplinary work

  • recruitment

  • motivation

  • communication

  • reward systems

  • management



  • How interdisciplinary is your department?

  • What sort of change would you like to see?

Swot analysis

SWOT analysis

  • Strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Opportunities

  • Threats



  • Interdisciplinary issues at system, institutional, departmental levels

  • Some examples of successful interdisciplinary initiatives / provision

System level funding

System level - funding

  • Difficulties writing interdisciplinary grants

  • Fitting interdisciplinary work into national assessment schemes (RAE in UK)

  • Challenges of aligning interdisciplinary work with national funding councils

Institution level recognition

Institution level - recognition

  • Issues with traditional discipline-based reward systems:

    • mode of publication: e.g. government report rather than journal article or book

    • location of publication: generalist rather than specialist journal

    • time frame: interdisciplinary work takes time to develop

    • publication in peer-reviewed journals using unfamiliar literatures

      A risky business best left till later?

Faculty school department level

Faculty, school, department level

  • Tribal academic disciplines

  • Administrative issues:

    • finance

    • course registration

    • time-tabling

    • computer systems

  • “It is quite difficult to teach interdisciplinary courses … with different timetables, for instance, or different habits, different expectations, different cultures, perhaps of contact, or different entry level requirements.”



  • Interdisciplinary work challenged by practices

    • lack of culture of going outside one’s own department

    • current academic fads and trends

    • budget crunches

  • Administration often organised on disciplinary and departmental lines

    • financial and prestige awards

    • course scheduling

    • computer systems

Promoting interdisciplinary work

Promoting interdisciplinary work

  • Promotion and tenure criteria important for early career academics

  • Linking academics with similar interests

    • Internal research databases

    • “Find an Expert”

  • Ability to go sideways in the university and maintain status is crucial for all academics



Small Group then Whole Group

  • Identify a change that you would like to see.

  • Decide what success would look like.

  • Report back

Force field analysis

Force field analysis

  • Identify a desired change

  • Undertake a force field analysis

  • How might the change be accomplished?

Enabling interdisciplinarity

Increase ?

Reduce ?

Stakeholder analysis

Stakeholder Analysis



to convince











  • Who are the stakeholders?

  • What do they want?

  • How can this be accommodated / dealt with?

Management style

Management Style

Tight Policy Definition



Tight Control

Loose Control



Loose Policy Definition

Management style1

Management style

  • What is the prevailing management style?

  • What are the implications for approaches to change?

Future questions

Future questions

  • Questions for university staff, including administrators, academics and those in leadership positions include:

  • How can researchers recode, reclassify and reorganise departments, divisions and centres to promote interdisciplinary working within existing university structures?

  • Are there new methods of accounting for and allocating faculty time, including research points, teaching loads, and university service commitments?

  • What can be done on campus and electronically to connect researchers across the university?

  • How can faculty members be keyed into databases to reflect their positions, including multiple appointments in departments, research centres, schools and faculties?

  • How can interdisciplinary teaching be promoted throughout the university, including faculty reimbursement, time-tabling, cross-listing courses, and requirements from students?



  • Where do we want to be?

  • What will success look like?

  • What needs to change?

  • What are the development issues?

  • Planned outputs

  • Actions

  • Timeline

  • Responsibilities



Contact us

Contact Us

Website address?

King's Learning InstituteRoom 6.16 James Clerk Maxwell Building57 Waterloo RoadLondon, SE1 8WAEmail: kli@kcl.ac.ukTel: 0207 848 3905Fax: 0207 848 3253

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