Interdisciplinary researchers attain better performance in funding

04/27/2021 ∙ by Ye Sun, et al. ∙ 0

Interdisciplinary research is fundamental when it comes to tackling complex problems in our highly interlinked world, and is on the rise globally. Yet, it is unclear why–in an increasingly competitive academic environment–one should pursue an interdisciplinary career given its recent negative press. Several studies have indeed shown that interdisciplinary research often achieves lower impact compared to more specialized work, and is less likely to attract funding. We seek to reconcile such evidence by analyzing a dataset of 44,419 research grants awarded between 2006 and 2018 from the seven national research councils in the UK. We compared the research performance of researchers with an interdisciplinary funding track record with those who have a specialized profile. We found that the former dominates the network of academic collaborations, both in terms of centrality and knowledge brokerage; but such a competitive advantage does not immediately translate into impact. Indeed, by means of a matched pair experimental design, we found that researchers who transcend between disciplines on average achieve lower impacts in their publications than the subject specialists in the short run, but eventually outperform them in funding performance, both in terms of volume and value. Our results suggest that launching an interdisciplinary career may require more time and persistence to overcome extra challenges, but can pave the way for a more successful endeavour.

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