When to Take an Interdisciplinary Research Approach

| Research Blog

Interdisciplinary research is a popular buzzword within the research community, met with varied levels of enthusiasm and disinterest. While team science, sounds like what it is…. a group of scientists, questions often remain on how interdisciplinary research works practically, or when to take this approach. To better understand when to take an interdisciplinary strategy, let’s study the benefits:

Interdisciplinary research promotes….


There are many different areas of health, both in practice and in topic, that can be paired together for a broader perspective for a research project. For example, a health educator, health policy expert and nurse practitioner advocating together for a health reform can be much more powerful than any one discipline alone. Take an interdisciplinary approach when you want the research to be more insightful, the intervention to be more effective, or the evaluation to be more thorough.

Shared Leadership

Interdisciplinary science is more of a team effort than some might like. According to Bennett and Gadlin (2012), research teams exist on a continuum of integration of interaction and integration, from the lone scientist, who works alone or unilaterally, to intense collaboration. Generally characterized by a high level of integration, interdisciplinary research often entails regular meetings bringing together field experts, and leadership being more spread out between different members. This can be great for science, but before taking this approach ask; will funding sources allow this level of collaboration? Who will be the ultimate point person for your team, and how will you share credit, such as when it comes to publications? Take an interdisciplinary research approach if sharing leadership seems feasible and beneficial to your project goals. 

Shared Vision

Focus, research questions, and scientific theory all need to be shared in order to reduce conflict prone to occur in research groups. Without a shared vision, a team will be confused whenever a break in communication occurs. Communicating, or vision casting, is an important piece of leading a team and is particularly necessary when bringing together scientists from different disciplines. Take an interdisciplinary research approach if you are able to unite your team as a leader, or join a team that has strong cohesion.


Read more about interdisciplinary research here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3652225/

Bennett, L. M., & Gadlin, H. (2012). Collaboration and team science: From theory to practice. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 60(5), 768–775. http://doi.org/10.231/JIM.0b013e318250871d