“SLATE has created an inclusive, creative interdisciplinary environment with a culture of team work and open-mindedness: a platform for researchers from different disciplines to meet, set up new projects, and produce joint publications.”
This is one of the conclusions about SLATE in a report commissioned by the Research Council of Norway from the Technopolis Group.
RCN commissioned report
In the Report entitled, “Case Study Review of Interdisciplinary Research in Norway”, the Technopolis Group considered 5 interdisciplinary research environments in Norway: SLATE, the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, the Centre for Scalable Data Access in the Oil and Gas Domain (SIRIUS), the Arctic University of Norway and the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, NTNU.
Technopolis Group was founded in 1989 in Brighton (UK). It is a consultancy firm that focuses on evaluating science, technology and innovation. The Group has grown to over 100 people, working in 66 countries, and are the leading international consultancy firm in this domain.
Technopolis’ goal is to be the international, “pre-eminent provider of policy advice and support to decision making – grounded in evidence and experience – to organisations and people with a mission to address environmental and societal challenges and achieve economic growth by means of science, technology, innovation and education.”
How is interdisciplinary research defined (IDR)?
Early in the report, Technopolis reviews the literature to define what is meant by interdisciplinary. They cite Choi and Pak (2006)
“Multidisciplinarity draws on knowledge from different disciplines but stays within the boundaries of those fields.
Interdisciplinarity analyses, synthesises and harmonises links between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole.
Transdisciplinarity integrates the natural, social and health sciences in a humanities context, and in doing so transcends each of their traditional boundaries.”
They further highlight that interdisciplinary research approaches are attracting increasing attention in Norway and globally because of their emphasis on tackling complex real-world problems (for which traditional monodisciplinary approaches are no longer appropriate). In addition, they underline that today’s increased focus on “frontier / cutting-edge research” aims to generate new knowledge that goes beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.
The report cautions that challenges facing IDR initiatives, including the fact that traditional evaluation measures are not adapted to multi- / interdisciplinarity. Among other things, it also points out that there are organisational and management challenges, particularly in traditionally organised institutions.
What does IDR mean in the Norwegian context?
The Technopolis report suggests that interest and engagement in IDR in Norway is being driven by current research priorities in Norway. They state that a top-down strategic focus on IDR seems to have stimulated researchers in Norway to adopt interdisciplinary ways of working.
They highlight two approaches that were common to the 5 case study units:
Co-location, including the establishment of “virtual networks”
Top-down strategic approaches combined with bottom-up researcher-led approaches.
SLATE: Establishing a milieu where people can talk and exchange ideas
Highlights about SLATE from the report:
Cross-Faculty = inherently interdisciplinary
Creating an environment that stimulates IDR, innovation, and attracts researchers and stakeholders
Networking / Partnership-building – extensive activity in presentations, meetings, conference participation, advisory activity, invited speakers, guest researchers
Co-location and “virtual” networking
Grounded in host institution (UiB) strategy
Inspiring and training the next generation of researchers
Internal competency development
The report concludes that SLATE as a research centre is combining research from a variety of disciplines to address the pressing education-related questions in Norway today.
Read the report