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Interdisciplinary Organisation

All perspectives are heard

From an organisational perspective, interdisciplinarity requires that all perspectives in the school are heard and taken into account. This necessitates:

  • Open and efficient channels of communication.
  • A governance framework in which the various disciplines and stakeholders (PhDs, staff, participating schools) are represented.
  • Example: The Steering Committee of the Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Helsinki. The School is an umbrella organisation for eleven doctoral programmes. It has its own academic leader and a steering committee group. The members of the steering committee group consist of vice-deans from each faculty at the campus.
  • Ensure the representation of PhD students from different disciplinary areas on the School’s governance bodies.
  • Example: The Erasmus Graduate School for Social Sciences and Humanities has a PhD Council, consisting of PhD students from the various disciplines. Five members of the Council are assigned to the Programme Board. The Council manages the annual PhD satisfaction survey amongst its members, but also the organisation of academic and social events [PhD Council].
  • An established and agreed policy and strategy regarding the necessity of interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in doctoral training.
  • Engagement with the interdisciplinary agenda(s) of the home university.
  • Leadership by example, i.e. having a head of the Graduate School that embodies the interdisciplinarity propagated.
Organisational incentives

Fostering an interdisciplinary research culture requires the appropriate management, infrastructure, funding and strategies. This necessitates measures such as:

  • The specification of research areas that can serve as a platform for interdisciplinary research and training activities.
  • Example: At Heidelberg Graduate School for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the importance of interdisciplinary dialogue has generated four main research areas as part of its Excellence Initiative, the ‘Fields of Focus’. The Graduate School is a nexus for Field of Focus 3: ’Cultural dynamics in globalized worlds’, and Field of Focus 4: ‘Self-regulation and regulation: individuals and organizations’, as it comprises all affiliated faculties and specialist research groups working at Heidelberg and within an international network.
  • The establishment of interdisciplinary research and service units that can effectively engage in the organization of interdisciplinary seminars and trainings.
  • Example: The House of Human and Social Sciences (Maison des Sciences de l’Homme) is a research and service unit of the National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and the University Paris-Saclay. This unit was created in 2015 and organizes interdisciplinary seminars and trainings.
  • Financial support for the work of interdisciplinary research groups or units who engage PhD students in their work.
  • Offer full fellowships to PhD students with interdisciplinary research subjects.
  • Support co-teaching of courses by faculty members from different disciplinary backgrounds.
  • Offer a special prize for PhD students to encourage interdisciplinary research projects.
  • Example: At the Université Paris-Saclay, the GS SHS prize is going to be awarded to encourage scientific risk-taking, excellence and interdisciplinarity and to promote doctoral programmes and doctoral students. This is part of a prize policy for doctoral schools, set up in 2016 at the Paris-Saclay Graduate School.
  • Networking

    Collaborating with interdisciplinary research centres or groups that can provide support and guidance to PhD students. Example: The Heidelberg Graduate School for the Humanities and Social Sciences has signed an agreement with the Collaborative Research Centre 933 for the humanities ‘Material Text Cultures’. This is a long-term university-based research institution in which researchers work together within a multidisciplinary research programme. The agreement has entered its third four-year funding period.

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