It’s time to start tracking interdisciplinary research

Our chief data officer explains why Times Higher Education is starting a new stream of data collection 

December 9, 2022

In 2023, we will start collecting data on the factors that lead to interdisciplinary research success, with a view to potentially launching a new ranking.

We’re exploring interdisciplinary research in its own right as it is an area that is not explicitly identified in our current data collection processes. We want to know what success in this important and interesting area looks like. Of course, interdisciplinary research has been a hot topic for several years, gaining the attention of researchers, funders and administrators of research institutions.

We’ve seen a broad consensus that universities must adopt new measures and incentives to deliver on the promise of interdisciplinary research and for some time now, Times Higher Education has been thinking about how we can help in that endeavour.

We think that there are three different sets of data that can help to inform our understanding.

The first is bibliometric data – data looking at research publications. This is where the outcome of interdisciplinary research can first be seen. Journals that cover a range of subjects, and even ones that explicitly explore interdisciplinary work, have become more common. But in order to understand the extent and success of interdisciplinary research, we need to look at this in more detail – at individual papers. We also need to make sure we are using metrics that make sense.

We will also be looking to source the views of researchers. A survey will be sent to academics who have actively published in the past few years, asking them for their experience and views on their own and other institutions’ approach to interdisciplinary research. The survey questions focus on research in general, interdisciplinary research and interdisciplinary science research areas. Participants will be able to nominate institutions most supportive of interdisciplinary research.

We will start sending the survey out in January, and it will be available in 12 languages (Italian, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese and English). It should take researchers around 10 minutes to complete.

The third type of data we’ll be collecting is from higher education institutions directly. For this we will track metrics such as income allocated explicitly to interdisciplinary research, the number of job adverts that explicitly mention interdisciplinary research, and institutional measures of research success.

We will be collecting this data alongside the World University Rankings data through our data collection portal, which will open in 2023 between January and March. These new data fields are not mandatory, however, and will not feed into the World University Rankings. They are distinct from the new methodology underpinning the World University Rankings, and if institutions do not wish to answer these questions it will not affect their inclusion in the World University Rankings.

If it wasn’t already obvious, the pandemic made it patently clear that solving the world’s biggest challenges will require the skills and techniques from a broad range of subjects. In pulling together this data, we hope to provide the sector with the information needed to boost the impact of interdisciplinary research. Thank you in advance to those who help us collect this data.

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Reader's comments (3)

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