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Learning from others’ interdisciplinary career paths

In this post Jonathan Rans, Strategic Research Executive, introduces the most recent additions to our Interdisciplinary toolkit – a set of case studies focusing on the career paths of University of Edinburgh interdisciplinary researchers.

Interdisciplinary research is growing in importance, highlighted by the increase in research funding schemes and calls that explicitly require an interdisciplinary approach. For many of our researchers, this type of research will form a significant part of their portfolio. In the current cohort of the Strategic Leadership in Research programme issues around developing interdisciplinary projects and careers came up time and again in discussions.

The good news is that guidance is available, through the Edinburgh Research Office’s Interdisciplinary toolkit, the Institute for Academic Development’s Interdisciplinary Conversations and our own academics studying the process of interdisciplinary research.

Examples of interdisciplinary careers

One thing which many researchers find useful are concrete examples of the career progression of colleagues with established interdisciplinary research careers, learning from what works and picking up tips and advice.

To meet that need, we have launched a set of case studies, featuring academic colleagues from across the University of Edinburgh. While their context is likely to be somewhat different to your own, there are many universally applicable lessons that can be drawn from their experience. We will be adding to these case studies over time. If you think your experiences of interdisciplinary research would be useful for other researchers and would like to take part, please do get in touch (Jonathan Rans:

Case studies

We speak to Professor Mark Harris (School of Divinity) who discusses a career spanning two disparate disciplines, Physics and Theology, and talks about how to successfully establish a career in a mature, interdisciplinary area.

Dr Sam Staddon (School of Geosciences) discusses the importance of interdisciplinary approaches in addressing complex, real-world issues, the value of experiencing positive interdisciplinary collaboration (regardless of the disciplinary area), and the centrality of ethics to high-quality interdisciplinary research.

Professor Mark Bradley (School of Chemistry) discusses what makes a good interdisciplinary collaborator, how to lead a large interdisciplinary project and shares tips on winning funding for interdisciplinary research.

Other interdisciplinary resources

If you are developing a career in interdisciplinary research, our toolkit has resources you will find useful. Whether you are new to this approach and looking for introductory materials, an interdisciplinary PI developing funding applications and managing projects, or a research leader supporting others’ interdisciplinary journeys, help is available.


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