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Tackling the challenges of a changing world through interdisciplinary research

By
Professor Rebekah Brown
, RISE Program Director
Dr Lara Werbeloff, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Monash Sustainable Development Institute
Professor Rob Raven, Deputy Director, Research, Monash Sustainable Development Institute

1 May 2019

Solutions-oriented, interdisciplinary research is an essential part of realising the SDG agenda. Ambitious interdisciplinary research programmes, such as RISE, seek to bridge traditional divides between disciplines, as well as combine research excellence with relevant impact.

While this relatively new research approach holds much promise, there is currently only limited understanding of the enabling conditions, challenges, lessons and tools for interdisciplinary sustainable development research. Increasing our understanding of how to design and deliver interdisciplinary research is crucial to realising its potential to offer practical and integrated solutions to complex, real-world problems.

To explore this gap a special issue of Global Challenges has just been released, focusing on interdisciplinary research and impact. Led by Director of the RISE program Professor Rebekah Brown, and Dr Lara Werbeloff (Manager of Strategic Initiatives) and Professor Rob Raven (Deputy Director of Research), both from the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, the special issue advances thinking about how to operationalise interdisciplinary research, shares lessons learned, and contributes new theoretical and empirical knowledge.

In consolidating insights from leading projects around the world, the special issue provides guidance on how to design and set up these collaborations, as well as strategies to support implementation and translate findings into policy and practice. It also highlights some exciting cross-program collaboration supported by the Wellcome Trust, including contributions from Professor Ana Diaz Roux's SALURBAL programme, Professor Alan Dangour and Professor Judy Orme.

The Wellcome Trust is a key funder and supporter of this pioneering interdisciplinary research approach through its Our Planet, Our Health programs. Wellcome’s Our Planet, Our Health agenda is explicitly interdisciplinary, bringing together environmental, medical and social science disciplines to solve complex challenges at the intersection of human and environmental health.

We hope this special issue offers valuable insights for researches and funders alike into how interdisciplinary research collaborations can be operationalised to deliver real-world solutions to entrenched sustainable development challenges.

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