Environmental Management

, Volume 60, Issue 6, pp 1011–1021 | Cite as

Barriers and Solutions to Conducting Large International, Interdisciplinary Research Projects

  • Erin C. Pischke
  • Jessie L. Knowlton
  • Colin C. Phifer
  • Jose Gutierrez Lopez
  • Tamara S. Propato
  • Amarella Eastmond
  • Tatiana Martins de Souza
  • Mark Kuhlberg
  • Valentin Picasso Risso
  • Santiago R. Veron
  • Carlos Garcia
  • Marta Chiappe
  • Kathleen E. Halvorsen
Article

Abstract

Global environmental problems such as climate change are not bounded by national borders or scientific disciplines, and therefore require international, interdisciplinary teamwork to develop understandings of their causes and solutions. Interdisciplinary scientific work is difficult enough, but these challenges are often magnified when teams also work across national boundaries. The literature on the challenges of interdisciplinary research is extensive. However, research on international, interdisciplinary teams is nearly non-existent. Our objective is to fill this gap by reporting on results from a study of a large interdisciplinary, international National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education (NSF-PIRE) research project across the Americas. We administered a structured questionnaire to team members about challenges they faced while working together across disciplines and outside of their home countries in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Analysis of the responses indicated five major types of barriers to conducting interdisciplinary, international research: integration, language, fieldwork logistics, personnel and relationships, and time commitment. We discuss the causes and recommended solutions to the most common barriers. Our findings can help other interdisciplinary, international research teams anticipate challenges, and develop effective solutions to minimize the negative impacts of these barriers to their research.

Keywords

Latin America Socioecological systems Sustainability Teamwork 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships in International Research and Education (PIRE) Program IIA #1243444 and Research Coordination Network (RCN) Program CBET #1140152, SES-0823058, as well as the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) CRN3105. We wish to thank all PIRE members who participated in this research and two anonymous reviewers for their comments that greatly improved this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin C. Pischke
    • 1
  • Jessie L. Knowlton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Colin C. Phifer
    • 1
  • Jose Gutierrez Lopez
    • 3
  • Tamara S. Propato
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Amarella Eastmond
    • 7
  • Tatiana Martins de Souza
    • 8
    • 9
  • Mark Kuhlberg
    • 10
  • Valentin Picasso Risso
    • 11
    • 12
  • Santiago R. Veron
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Carlos Garcia
    • 13
  • Marta Chiappe
    • 12
  • Kathleen E. Halvorsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Michigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA
  2. 2.Wheaton CollegeNortonUSA
  3. 3.University of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Universidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  5. 5.Instituto Nacional de Tecnología AgropecuariaInstituto de Clima y AguaHurlinghamArgentina
  6. 6.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y TécnicasBuenos AiresArgentina
  7. 7.Universidad Autónoma de YucatánMéridaMexico
  8. 8.Conservation InternationalRio de JaneiroBrazil
  9. 9.Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de JaneiroSeropédicaBrazil
  10. 10.Laurentian UniversitySudburyCanada
  11. 11.University of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  12. 12.Universidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  13. 13.Escuela Nacional de Estudios Superiores Unidad MoreliaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMexico

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