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CR 74:121-129 (2017)  -  DOI:

Avoiding pitfalls in interdisciplinary education

R. E. Holt1,11,*, P. J. Woods2,12, A. S. A. Ferreira3,13, H. Bardarson2,12, S. Bonanomi4,14, W. J. Boonstra5, W. E. Butler2, F. K. Diekert6,15, N. Fouzai1, M. Holma7, A. Kokkalis3, K. Ø. Kvile6,16, J. I. Macdonald2, E. Malanski3,17, E. Nieminen7,18, K. M. Ottosen8, M. W. Pedersen3, A. Richter6,9, L. Rogers6, G. Romagnoni6, M. Snickars10, A. Törnroos10, B. Weigel10, J. D. Whittington6, J. Yletyinen5

1Department of Biology, University of Bergen, PO Box 7803, 5020 Bergen, Norway
2Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland, Askja, Sturlugata 7, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
3DTU Aqua, Kemitorvet Building 201, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark
4DTU Aqua, Vejlsøvej 39, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark
5Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B, 11419 Stockholm, Sweden
6Centre for Ecological & Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Postboks 1066, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
7Department of Economics and Management, University of Helsinki, PO Box 27, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
8Faculty of Science & Technology, The University of the Faroe Islands, Faculty of Science and Technology, Nóatún 3, 100 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
9Environmental Economics and Natural Resources Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 8130, 6700 EW Wageningen, The Netherlands
10Environmental and Marine Biology, Åbo Akademi University, Artillerigatan 6, Biocity, 20520 Turku/Åbo, Finland
11Present address: Centre for Ecological & Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Postboks 1066, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
12Present address: Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, Skulagata 4, 121 Reykjavik, Iceland
13Present address: School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
14Present address: National Research Council (CNR), Institute of Marine Science (ISMAR), Largo Fiera della Pesca 1, 60125 Ancona, Italy
15Present address: Department of Economics, Heidelberg University, Bergheimer Str. 20, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany
16Present address: Department of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
17Present address: Instituto Nacional da Mata Atlântica - INMA, Av. José Ruschi 4, PO Box 29650-000, Santa Teresa, ES, Brazil
18Present address: Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), PO Box 140, 00251 Helsinki, Finland
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As the world’s social-environmental problems increasingly extend across boundaries, both disciplinary and political, there is a growing need for interdisciplinarity, not only in research per se, but also in doctoral education. We present the common pitfalls of interdisciplinary research in doctoral education, illustrating approaches towards solutions using the Nordic Centre for Research on Marine Ecosystems and Resources under Climate Change (NorMER) research network as a case study. We provide insights and detailed examples of how to overcome some of the challenges of conducting interdisciplinary research within doctoral studies that can be applied within any doctoral/postdoctoral education programme, and beyond. Results from a self-evaluation survey indicate that early-career workshops, annual meetings and research visits to other institutions were the most effective learning mechanisms, whereas single discipline-focused courses and coursework were among the least effective learning mechanisms. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of components of NorMER, this case study can inform the design of future programmes to enhance interdisciplinarity in doctoral education, as well as be applied to science collaboration and academic research in general.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Interdisciplinarity · Education · Learning mechanisms · Research network

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Cite this article as: Holt RE, Woods PJ, Ferreira ASA, Bardarson H and others (2017) Avoiding pitfalls in interdisciplinary education. Clim Res 74:121-129.

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