Facilitating University Interdisciplinary Research: A Social Capital Perspective

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Joanne Scillitoe


Interdisciplinary research (IDR) offers valuable potential benefits in regard to the creation of new knowledge, theories, inventions, innovations, ventures, and industries as well as subsequent economic and social benefits.  Universities, as research and educational institutions, play a central role in this IDR process, particularly in emerging interdisciplinary fields, and have the ability to engage with external partners. However, IDR associated with emerging interdisciplinary fields cuts across increasingly dissimilar disciplines on topics such as artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, autonomous devices, immersive reality, and socio-tech entrepreneurship, creating both new opportunities and challenges for university centric IDR. 

In this paper a conceptual model is presented, drawing predominately from social capital theory, to offer new insights regarding the dynamics associated with the emergence of IDR within university networks.  Specifically, we argue that by viewing how social capital emerges within the IDR network, as well as understanding the opportunities, motivation, and ability to gain from the IDR network, we can gain insights regarding the process of university IDR development and outcomes.  In addition, we offer insights on how the emergence of social capital can be managed to better enable university IDR, particularly across less similar disciplines. 


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