Common Interests Without Common Expertise: Reflections On Early-Career Experiences In Cross-Disciplinary Research

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Integrative And Comparative Biology


Cross-disciplinary research enables us to tackle complex problems that require expertise from different fields. Such collaborations involve researchers who have different perspectives, communication styles, and knowledge bases, and can produce results far greater than the sum of their parts. However, in an era of increasing scientific specialization, there exist many barriers for students and early-career researchers (ECRs) interested in training and undertaking interdisciplinary research endeavors. This perspective examines the challenges that students and ECRs perceive and experience in cross-disciplinary work and proposes pathways to create more inclusive and welcoming research environments. This work emerges from a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded workshop held during the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) Annual Meeting in January 2023 in Austin, TX. The workshop brought together seasoned interdisciplinary scientists with undergraduate and graduate students to identify and discuss perceived challenges through small group discussions and experience sharing. Through summarizing a range of student concerns about embarking on careers as interdisciplinary scientists and identifying ways to dismantle institutional and lab management-level barriers, we aim to promote an inclusive and collaborative problem-solving environment for scientists of all experience levels.

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