What is an Interdisciplinary Research Team?

Coordinator: Sile O’Modhrain

For the past 20 years or so, both academia and industry have placed much emphasis on the importance of interdisciplinary research, research that draws upon a broad range of skills and interests in the service of a common goal.  Whether through the mechanism of collaborative projects in the classroom, collaborative grants, or through the hiring and resourcing policies of industrial laboratories, such teams are now a mainstay of today’s research landscape.

However, the assumption that simply bringing together a group of talented and skilled researchers who are enthusiastic about a given project is sufficient to deliver innovative research is somewhat naive and can often result in an experience which is disappointing for both the members of the team and the project’s stakeholders.

Drawing on 20 years of experience of both working within and directing interdisciplinary research teams in the fields of haptic interaction and digital musical instrument design, the author suggests that, by giving some thought to the balance and distribution of skills and interests of team members at the point of recruitment, and by gaining a better understanding of the process of development that must take place within the team during the lifetime of a research project, the quality of the interdisciplinary research experience can be greatly improved both for individual team members and for the wider community of stakeholders in the project.