As SHAPE-ID (Shaping interdisciplinary practices in Europe) approaches its organic closure, we are proud to share that the project has received the European Commission’s commendation for its rich contribution to the promotion of interdisciplinary research.
SHAPE-ID’s legacy, in the field of knowledge integration and cross-contamination between disciplines in academic and collaborative research, appears to be a long-lasting one as a review by the EC of this Horizon2020-funded project has described its major asset, a new web-based toolkit, a “world class” resource.
Established in 2019, the SHAPE-ID consortium – coordinated by Trinity College Dublin and made up of academic and research institutions such as ISINNOVA, ETH Zurich, University of Edinburgh, Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences and Jack Spaapen – challenged barriers to interdisciplinarity with the intent of helping researchers, research organisations, funders and policymakers embrace a deeper collaboration between STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and the sphere of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS).
Academic and research scenarios have often been STEM-centric in their approaches to pursuing and funding research, frequently downplaying the essential contributions and creative insights into collective and cultural frameworks that may come from the humanities and social sciences.
Plus, interdisciplinary researchers, whose work does not focus on one specific discipline, such as engineering or biology, often face greater challenges to secure funding and obtain publications in high-impact journals.
In the words of Dr Isabel Fletcher (University of Edinburgh): «What is clear is that there is a real lack of understanding among STEM researchers about what the arts and humanities have to offer. The message we are trying to get across through the toolkit is that perspectives from these disciplines can bring so much value in terms of understanding human behaviour and understanding how problems can be framed in different ways».
Animated by these concerns, the SHAPE-ID toolkit, launched in 2021, was designed as a practical guide to approach research funding in a more holistic way, enabling the recognition of interdisciplinary expertise in the evaluation and decision-making process. The kit includes pathways, top 10 checklists, case studies and recommendations: a collection of practices with “transformative” potential that has led the European Commission to suggest its adoption, by the EC and/or other national funders, as a reference resource to be consulted in their funding programmes and used for expert training of evaluators.
This encouraging praise does not change the fact that the challenge continues, as SHAPE-ID partners agree there is a whole lot more to be done in terms of deep-rooted reforms to existing institutional practices to allow a meaningful and fruitful integration of AHSS disciplines in collaborative research projects.
ISINNOVA joins the other SHAPE-ID partners in hoping “our” toolkit can become a sparkle to fuel further investments in open-source initiatives aimed at shaping interdisciplinarity-driven best practices among researchers and evaluators.