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Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate B Recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering/Institute of Medicine Report Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research1 RECOMMENDATIONS On the basis of its findings, the committee offers the following recommendations. They are listed by category of people and organizations involved in interdisciplinary research, education, and training. The committee does not necessarily urge interdisciplinary research activities for all institutions and individuals, but, for parties that are interested in implementing or improving such activities, the committee provides the following recommendations. The majority of the recommendations the committee makes to facilitate interdisciplinary research are “incremental”; however, the committee provides suggestions for “transformative” changes for those institutions willing to experiment with new approaches. Most of these are described briefly here in the section entitled “academic institutional structures,” but very specific ideas are provided in Chapter 9 that expand upon these recommendations. Students S-1: Undergraduate students should seek out interdisciplinary experiences, such as courses at the interfaces of traditional disciplines that address basic research problems, interdisciplinary courses that address societal problems, and research experiences that span more than one traditional discipline. 1 These recommendations were developed by the Committee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research and were published in NAS/NAE/IOM. 2004. Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate S-2: Graduate students should explore ways to broaden their experience by gaining “requisite” knowledge in one or more fields in addition to their primary field. Postdoctoral Scholars P-1: Postdoctoral scholars can actively exploit formal and informal means of gaining interdisciplinary experiences during their postdoctoral appointments through such mechanisms as networking events and internships in industrial and nonacademic settings. P-2: Postdoctoral scholars interested in interdisciplinary work should seek to identify institutions and mentors favorable to interdisciplinary research (IDR). Researchers and Faculty Members R-1: Researchers and faculty members desiring to work on IDR, education, and training projects should immerse themselves in the languages, cultures, and knowledge of their collaborators in IDR. R-2: Researchers and faculty members who hire postdoctoral scholars from other fields should assume the responsibility for educating them in the new specialties and become acquainted with the postdoctoral scholars’ knowledge and techniques. Educators A-1: Educators should facilitate IDR by providing educational and training opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars, such as relating foundation courses, data gathering and analysis, and research activities to other fields of study and to society at large. Academic Institutions’ Policies I-1: Academic institutions should develop new and strengthen existing policies and practices that lower or remove barriers to IDR and scholarship, including developing joint programs with industry and government and nongovernment organizations. I-2: Beyond the measures suggested in I-1, institutions should experiment with more innovative policies and structures to facilitate IDR, making appropriate use of lessons learned from the performance of IDR in industrial and national laboratories.
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Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate I-3: Institutions should support interdisciplinary education and training for students, postdoctoral scholars, researchers, and faculty by providing such mechanisms as undergraduate research opportunities, faculty team-teaching credit, and IDR management training. I-4: Institutions should develop equitable and flexible budgetary and cost-sharing policies that support IDR. Team Leaders T-1: To facilitate the work of an IDR team, its leaders should bring together potential research collaborators early in the process and work toward agreement on key issues. T-2: IDR leaders should seek to ensure that each participant strikes an appropriate balance between leading and following and between contributing to and benefiting from the efforts of the team. Funding Organizations F-1: Funding organizations should recognize and take into consideration in their programs and processes the unique challenges faced by IDR with respect to risk, organizational mode, and time. F-2: Funding organizations, including interagency cooperative activities, should provide mechanisms that link interdisciplinary research and education and should provide opportunities for broadening training for researchers and faculty members. F-3: Funding organizations should regularly evaluate, and if necessary redesign, their proposal and review criteria to make them appropriate for interdisciplinary activities. F-4: Congress should continue to encourage federal research agencies to be sensitive to maintaining a proper balance between the goal of stimulating IRD and the need to maintain robust disciplinary research. Professional Societies PS-1: Professional societies should seek opportunities to facilitate IDR at regular society meetings and through their publications and special initiatives. Journal Editors J-1: Journal editors should actively encourage the publication of IDR research results through various mechanisms, such as editorial-board membership and establishment of special IDR issues or sections.
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Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nurture Debate Evaluation of IDR E-1: IDR programs and projects should be evaluated in such a way that there is an appropriate balance between criteria characteristic of IDR, such as contributions to creation of an emerging field and whether they lead to practical answers to societal questions, and traditional disciplinary criteria, such as research excellence. E-2: Interdisciplinary education and training programs should be evaluated according to criteria specifically relevant to interdisciplinary activities, such as number and mix of general student population participation and knowledge acquisition, in addition to the usual requirements of excellence in content and presentation. E-3: Funding organizations should enhance their proposal-review mechanisms so as to ensure appropriate breadth and depth of expertise in the review of proposals for IDR, education, and training activities. E-4: Comparative evaluations of research institutions, such as the National Academies’ assessment of doctoral programs and activities that rank university departments, should include the contributions of interdisciplinary activities that involve more than one department (even if it involves double-counting), as well as single-department contributions. Academic Institutional Structure U-1: Institutions should explore alternative administrative structures and business models that facilitate IDR across traditional organizational structures. U-2: Allocations of resources from high-level administration to interdisciplinary units, to further their formation and continued operation, should be considered in addition to resource allocations of discipline-driven departments and colleges. Such allocations should be driven by the inherent intellectual values of the research and by the promise of IDR in addressing urgent societal problems. U-3: Recruitment practices, from recruitment of graduate students to hiring of faculty members, should be revised to include recruitment across department and college lines. U-4: The traditional practices and norms in hiring of faculty members and in making tenure decisions should be revised to take into account more fully the values inherent in IDR activities. U-5: Continuing social science, humanities, and information-science-based studies of the complex social and intellectual processes that make for successful IDR are needed to deepen the understanding of these processes and to enhance the prospects for the creation and management of successful programs in specific fields and local institutions.
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