Letters to a Younger Self: Supporting Future Interdisciplinary Academics
Connor, Andrew Miles
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Most contemporary universities are organised around discipline-based units and the notion of discipline is deeply intertwined with academic life and this creates challenges for interdisciplinary scholars. This work is focused on identifying the barriers to interdisciplinary scholarly activity in New Zealand universities, and to examine the strategies used by established interdisciplinary scholars to navigate those barriers. The ultimate objective of the work is to distil these strategies into advice for early career academics wishing to purse an interdisciplinary career. A survey was used to collect data related to the barriers to interdisciplinarity as well as the motivations for undertaking interdisciplinary work. The main barriers identified included a lack of institutional support, lack of recognition in terms or promotion, and an increased difficulty in research design. The study ultimately utilises the notion of a ‘letter to a younger self’ as the mechanism to capture the lived experience of established interdisciplinary academics. A reflexive thematic analysis is used to create the guidance for early career academics, with the main advice focused on developing networks, methodological flexibility, and open mindedness. In addition, this research makes recommendations for leadership that can result in an improved organisational culture that is better suited to fostering interdisciplinarity.