How higher education can promote interdisciplinary science and enhance impact

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Advocates of interdisciplinary science need only point to the world’s greatest problems to make their case. Climate change, food insecurity and 21st century healthcare are issues that require scientific collaboration across all sectors. But if science is to realize its potential, interdisciplinarity must be encouraged.

Megan Kenna, executive director of Schmidt Science Fellows (SSF), says this continues to be the biggest challenge in the sector, which is why the organization created the partnership. Times Higher Education A new level for interdisciplinary cooperation.

Our encouragement For the structure of science It goes against what we believe science is best done to address global challenges,” Kenna says. “The world’s challenges know no disciplinary boundaries, so we need to find ways to encourage scientists to work collaboratively across disciplines to solve them. Despite widespread support for interdisciplinary science in higher education institutions, how universities encourage, recognize and reward scientists does not always encourage interdisciplinarity. Kenna hopes of Rankings help universities shape their progress toward multidisciplinary excellence and reward those who do exceptionally well.

SSF was founded to collaborate across disciplines in interdisciplinary science, training and nurturing the world’s brightest scientific minds. This may mean training in a different field. Indeed, it means teaching scholars to communicate their ideas clearly and to synthesize their academic writings for a wider scientific audience. “You can’t do science well unless you can communicate in those areas,” Kenna says. “It’s the core of it all.”

Kenna knows the academic needs of students and their time. Tenure and promotion committees can help guide scholars toward multidisciplinarity by evaluating candidates for their ability to collaborate and the impact of their writing outside of their field. The academic structure must also recognize that failure is a characteristic of scientific endeavor, not failure. Kenenisa argues that innovation in an academic system that does not support academics will be hampered by high-risk, high-reward speculation.

We encourage our fellows to fail early and fail often. But fail first and learn. In fact, it’s a really scientific process,” Kenna says. “Failure is just data that goes back into the system and see what happens next. Science would be boring if every experiment worked. But when these big ideas work, the results can be amazing.

SSF colleagues have conducted successful research to understand why some cells resist cancer treatments. They used advanced quantum mechanical simulations to test the speed limit of magnetism, paving the way for innovations in magnet-based memory devices and electronic circuits.

Kenna cites the Covid-19 pandemic as a step in the research process. “We are faced with a challenge that cannot be solved by a single discipline and requires collaboration,” she says. The speed with which vaccines are developed and released is a testament to the power of interdisciplinary science and how it can accelerate innovation.

Learn more about the Schmidt Science Fellows.

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