Barriers and Solutions to Conducting Large International, Interdisciplinary Research Projects
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.
KeywordsLatin America Socioecological systems Sustainability Teamwork
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.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Barrett CB, Cason J (1997) Overseas research: a practical guide. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MDGoogle Scholar
- Bernard HR (2006) Research methods in anthropology: qualitative and quantitative approaches, 4th edition. AltaMira Press, Lanham, MDGoogle Scholar
- De Torres MF (2013) Clima en colectivo/reflexiones sobre la interdisciplina. In: Picasso V, Cruz G, Astigarraga L, Terra R (eds) Cambio y Variabilidad Climática: Respuestas Interdisciplinarias. Espacio Interdisciplinario, Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, p 132Google Scholar
- Dieguez F, Toranza C, Caorsi ML, García Cartagena M (2015) Construyendo interdisciplina en torno al cambio y la variabilidad climática. In: Astigarraga L, Terra R, Cruz G, Picasso V eds Centro Interdisciplinario de Respuesta al Cambio y Variabilidad Climática: Vínculos Ciencia-Política y Ciencia-Sociedad. Espacio Interdisciplinario, Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, p 142Google Scholar
- Goddard JT, Cranston N, Billot J (2006) Making it work: identifying the challenges of collaborative international research. Int Electron J Leadersh Learn 10:11Google Scholar
- Halvorsen KE, Knowlton JL, Mayer AS, Phifer CC, Martins T, Pischke EC, Propato TS, Cavigliasso P, Garcia C, Chiappe M, Eastmond A (2016) A case study of strategies for fostering international, interdisciplinary research. J Environ Stud Sci 1:1–11Google Scholar
- National Research Council (2008) International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences Research: Report of a Workshop. Board on International Scientific Organizations. The National Academies Press: Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Pentland A (2012) The new science of building great teams. Harv Bus Rev 90:60–69Google Scholar
- Ritchie J, Spencer L, Bryman A, Burgess R (1994) Analyzing qualitative dataGoogle Scholar