A very interesting study of Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) in the UK has been published today, with a particularly interesting (and resonant) paragraph in the opening pages:
“Career-related barriers – Careers rooted solely in IDR are perceived to be risky (particularly for early career researchers) and as less appreciated by HEIs, thus discouraging researchers from conducting IDR. Peers may view IDR as less rigorous, and interdisciplinary career paths may be less traditional, which may create challenges for IDR researchers trying to build a long-term career. Recruitment and promotion criteria were perceived as more easily evidenced through monodisciplinary research, resulting in a perception that promotion and tenure policies in HEIs discourage IDR. This view is strongest among Social Science and Arts & Humanities researchers, but it is also present to a lesser extent among all other stakeholder subgroups in the surveys.”
Unfortunately it must be said that my own experience has been similar to that described.
It should be noted also that Stern’s report this July had similar things to say:
“Despite these perceived advantages the Call for Evidence revealed a sense that interdisciplinary work was disadvantaged by the current REF through the disciplinary ‘silos’ embodied in the Unit of Assessment panel structures and that interdisciplinary work was often regarded less favourably than mono-disciplinary research.” (Stern 40.)
See the HEFCE webpage for the full report.