Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: investing in early career interdisciplinarity

Three PhD students share tips for embracing an interdisciplinary approach to research from the start of one’s academic career to aid progress towards tackling the Sustainable Development Goals



King's College London,UNSW Sydney
21 Sep 2021
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Key Details

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01:29 Tip #1: Be proactive about building your interdisciplinary network 

02:28 Tip #2: Take courses outside your specialism, in other departments or faculties, to learn about broader topics 

03:03 Tip #3: Consider the context of your research and therefore where it overlaps with other disciplines 


Hello, my name is Roxanne Keynejad, I’m a UK trainee psychiatrist and a PhD student at King’s College London. I am really pleased to be introducing this short video from me and my two colleagues who I met through an interdisciplinary programme between King’s College London, University of New South Wales and Arizona State University.  

Me, Manisha and Poushali met and we were all interested in the role of interdisciplinarity in wider issues facing early career researchers and especially of relevance to the Sustainable Development Goals. We wrote a short paper in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, and we’ll share a link to that paper at the end of our video.

But for now we wanted to share with you a few tips.

My name is Poushali Ganguli. I’m a health economist and PhD student at King’s College London. Most of my research is focused on school-based mental health programmes so is very interdisciplinary and concerned with health, economic and educational outcomes for young people.  

Hello my name is Manisha Yapa and I’m an infectious diseases physician based in Sydney, Australia. I recently completed my PhD at the University of New South Wales Sydney and I had the privilege of meeting Roxanne and Poushali through the PluS Alliance International Interdisciplinary Researchers’ programme.

My main tip is to be proactive about building your interdisciplinary network with near peers. I think many of us know the feeling, pre-coronavirus times, of going to a conference and feeling anxious when we don’t know anyone and don’t know what to do in the coffee breaks apart from look at our phone.

And I have found when I’ve gone to a conference with a clear objective to meet people in my field, or meet people from different countries or different universities, I’m much better at building connections.

So, for example, I will go to the poster area and speak to the person who’s written a poster relevant to my work, take a photo of the poster, maybe tweet about it, keep their email and then follow up later. And then, when I see small grants advertised for networks or collaborative projects, I can think of that person and contact them and see whether there are opportunities to collaborate in the future.

I think it can be very hard to meet people outside of your programme if you’re at a very large university, so my tip is to take courses in other departments or other faculties so you can learn a bit more about topics that you have an interest in, but which may not be directly linked to your degree. I think intercalated years or taking uncredited modules are great for this.

At King’s I have been able to take courses in philosophy and modern languages during both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies and this has been great, not only for my learning, but also for meeting some brilliant people that I still work with today.

My tip for early career researchers interested in embarking on interdisciplinary research is to first consider the context in which the proposed work will take place. For example, during my research improving HIV service quality in rural South Africa, I learned a lot from social anthropologists.

They were trying to understand where the young people in the area had hope for the future, including prospects of employment. Now in areas where there may be gaps in socio-economic development or gaps in education, prospects of employment can be quite limited and yet we know that a stable secure income is essential for health and well-being. And if someone  has insecure employment and they are also living with HIV, they may sometimes have to choose between earning an income for the day and attending health services.

Therefore to optimise the public health response to HIV in such settings it becomes really important to address the wider determinants of health including education and employment, all in an environmentally sustainable way.

Thank you for watching. We hope you find these tips useful and please do check out our paper which is linked below.

This video is based on the paper “Achieving the sustainable development goals: investing in early career interdisciplinarity” co-authored by Roxanne Keynejad, Poushali Ganguli and Manisha Yapa. It was edited by Priya Arora.

Roxanne Keynejad is a trainee psychiatrist and PhD student, and Poushali Ganguli is a health economist and PhD student, both at King’s College London.

Manisha Yapa is an infectious diseases physician and recently completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales Sydney.


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