Interdisciplinarity and Collaboration Report
Opportunities to collaborate with scholars across the campus enrich interdisciplinary scholarship and creative activity. The cross-fertilization of ideas illuminates scholarly inquiries and creates new approaches to solving real world problems of common interest. Interdisciplinarity studies attract students, faculty, and often funding.
The majority of UMass Amherst faculty express high interest in interdisciplinary work, with 59% reporting they are “extremely” or “very interested.” Similar percentages report engaging in collaborative (60%) or solo (61%) interdisciplinary scholarship. Moreover, the majority of faculty are satisfied with collaboration opportunities in their departments (62%) and off campus (63%), though there is less satisfaction with collaboration opportunities with campus partners outside of their departments (50%). These findings of enjoying collaborating yet having fewer opportunities across the UMass campus to collaborate mirror the UMass ADVANCE study findings from 2018-19 on collaborative work.
Overall satisfaction with institutional supports and rewards for interdisciplinary work is often low, both at UMass and among peer institutions. In that context, it is notable that at UMass early career and underrepresented faculty report substantially higher satisfaction in this area relative to senior and white faculty. For example, 43% of pre-tenure faculty find campus facilities to be conducive to interdisciplinary work and 43% agree that their departments know how to evaluate interdisciplinary work, compared to 25% and 34%, respectively, among tenured faculty. Similarly, faculty of color were more satisfied than white faculty with facilities for interdisciplinary work (41% and 27%, respectively) and with the valuation of interdisciplinary work in tenure case evaluations (44% and 23%, respectively).
While faculty feel positively about engaging in interdisciplinary work, their satisfaction with institutional infrastructure and credit for this work are significantly lower. Less than one-third of faculty members report that facilities and budgets are conducive to interdisciplinary work. While the majority of faculty report solo interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching, collaborative interdisciplinary teaching is less common. Only 28% of faculty at UMass, compared to 38% at peer institutions, report engaging in collaborative interdisciplinary teaching.
Satisfaction with how interdisciplinary work is rewarded in personnel actions is similarly low. Thirty-six percent of faculty agree that their departments know how to evaluate interdisciplinary work. When it comes to receiving credit for interdisciplinary work in faculty evaluations and personnel actions, few faculty report being satisfied with how interdisciplinarity is rewarded in decisions about merit (21% satisfied), reappointment (27%), tenure (32%), and promotion (25%).
* Increase opportunities and connections across the campus for interdisciplinary and collaborative work
UMass Research Next offers a gateway to interdisciplinary research activity on campus. Connect to centers, institutes, competitions, reports, and resources in six interdisciplinary areas: Energy and Materials, Environment, Governance and Society, Identity and Culture, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Life Sciences and Health.
Research Scholars Network is an initiative of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement’s Office. This web-based platform would amplify faculty scholarship and make visible opportunities for collaboration across the campus.
* Create/support facilities that house and promote interdisciplinary/collaborative work. At UMass, many centers and institutes support Intersectional, international, and interdisciplinary research. A sampling of these includes:
Interdisciplinary Studies Institute Seminar Series is a forum for UMass faculty to engage on selected and rotating themes through the ISI Seminar, annual ISI lecture, working groups and colloquia.
The Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) is a central investment in providing infrastructure for interdisciplinary work and “collaboratories” with industry partners.
The Institute for Diversity Sciences promotes multidisciplinary collaborations and monthly thematic research meetings in health, learning, work, and climate studies.
The Institute for Social Science Research offers research skills, resources, funding training, and opportunities to join interdisciplinary networks.
The Center for Research on Families supports and promotes interdisciplinary family research across social, behavioral and natural sciences.
* Increase funding opportunities to seed interdisciplinary collaborations and connections across the campus. Collaboration seed grants are offered through the following mechanisms:
* Train heads/chairs and DPCs/CPCs on how to credit interdisciplinary and collaborative work fairly in faculty evaluations
* The UMass ADVANCE initiative recognizes collaborative work as a key component of faculty success, equity, and inclusion. In academic year (2022-2023) UMass ADVANCE will focus on “Crediting Research Collaboration,” with their evidence-driven programming and policy interventions working towards equal access to recognition of faculty collaborative work.
Resources from UMass ADVANCE