ESPA Blog

Opinion pieces and features from our team, ESPA researchers and others working on science and practice relevant to ESPA…

How can research better inform development policy and practice? Insights on interdisciplinary approaches

12 February, 2018
By Valeria Izzi and Laura Meagher

How can research better inform development policy and practice? As interdisciplinary approach is widely seen as essential to ensure that research crosses the walls of academia and provides relevant evidence to underpin action to tackle the complex and multifaceted challenge of our times.

In this webinar, consultant Dr. Laura Meagher shares the key lessons emerging from ESPA’s experience in funding, carrying out, and assessing research for development impact. With a strong focus on interdisciplinarity throughout its lifespan, ESPA represents a large scale experiment in interdisciplinary research, and thus can offer critical insights on the conditions under which interdisciplinarity can thrive and maximise its impact on real-life problems.

The webinar distils a number of key messages emerging from ESPA’s experience:

Interdisciplinarity is about people – not abstract disciplines. It can only flourish if individuals are given the time, space and support to come out of their...

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The day to day workings of interdisciplinary research depend on project size

12 February, 2018
By By Geoff Wells, Casey Ryan and Janet Fisher, University of Edinburgh

Calls for interdisciplinary research are on the rise. Research councils increasingly want to fund it, and journals increasingly want to publish it. But the day to day practice of bringing together disciplines remains challenging for even experienced research teams.

Reflecting on our experiences under the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme, we suggest that interdisciplinary teams must be structured to support cross-disciplinary communication and the adaptability of the research process – and that teams may become more hierarchical and more managerially demanding in bigger projects.

Interdisciplinarity requires communication and adaptability

The ESPA programme funded numerous studies on ecosystems and human wellbeing. Research focusing on complex social-ecological systems will often have to start by drawing artificial boundaries around a feasible sub-system to study. Initial research questions and...

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