Interdisciplinarity in action
UEF Bulletin 2016
This issue of UEF Bulletin introduces many top-level international research areas of the University of Eastern Finland. Characteristic to these areas is that they are thematic rather than within the walls of a given discipline. This approach is at the heart of our strategy – finding interdisciplinary solutions to complex problems.
The August 2015 edition of Nature is a special issue on interdisciplinarity, examining the topic from different angles including those of governments, funding organisations, universities and academics. I will pick out just a few highlights. Governmental and granting bodies focus on interdisciplinarity. They expect solutions to complex modern problems that are not amenable to single-discipline investigations. For universities, one of the challenges is how to build thematic teams that extend across budgetary boundaries, such as departments that are often organised around single disciplines. From a scientist’s point of view, on the other hand, heading for interdisciplinary research takes courage, as you have to go beyond your comfort zone.
The Nature analysis also reveals that the extent and impact of interdisciplinary research are on the rise. Extent was analysed in the form of paper citations outside the discipline, while impact was analysed in the form of long-term citations of papers combining different fields.
So, how does Nature’s global analysis of interdisciplinarity apply to UEF and UEF scientists? Our interdisciplinary approach has been recognised by the Ministry of Education and Culture. This became apparent when we applied for competitive funding to strengthen the university’s research profile: UEF’s application resulted in a jackpot – we received as much funding as we applied for, along with just two other universities. Furthermore, in many recent meetings organised by the Ministry and the Academy of Finland, UEF’s profile and interdisciplinary approach have been highlighted as exemplary.
Over the past year, research funding decisions from the Academy of Finland and the European Commission have demonstrated a similar trend to the research profile funding. Funding is won by those who aim to tackle big scientific and societal questions and have the courage to cross borders. These UEF role models encourage us in the development of cross-faculty, cross-department alliances to tackle wicked problems.