Scots take lead in interdisciplinary survey

June 19, 1998

Questionnaires are being sent next week to 11,000 researchers across the country in a bid to find out more about interdisciplinary research.

There have been widespread fears that interdisciplinary work may suffer because research funding and the research assessment exercise are geared towards single subjects. The higher education funding councils have commissioned a study that aims to help them reduce or remove any disincentives to interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work.

Some 20 per cent of researchers, including the heads of all departments that made submissions to the last RAE, are being canvassed from Monday, with a deadline of August 21 for responses. The survey, carried out by the independent consultancy Evaluation Associates, hopes to clarify how much interdisciplinary work goes on, and where. There will also be a parallel survey of RAE panel members to see how interdisciplinary work was dealt with in the last exercise. This new study will feed into the funding councils' consultation into the RAE.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council is leading the study on behalf of the funding councils. This grows out of the work of the Scottish Universities Research Policy Consortium which has called for a watchdog group to monitor interdisciplinary work in future RAEs and yardsticks to enable interdisciplinary research to be evaluated.

The 11-member joint working group, which plans to make a final report in November, is chaired by Morag Campbell, head of SHEFC's research funding and policy branch.

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