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WIREs Clim Change
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Overcoming early career barriers to interdisciplinary climate change research

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Climate‐change impacts are among the most serious and complex challenges facing society, affecting both natural and social systems. Addressing these requires a new paradigm of interdisciplinary collaboration which incorporates tools, techniques, and insights from across the social, natural, and engineering sciences. Yet, a wide range of intrinsic and extrinsic hurdles need to be overcome to conduct successful, integrated interdisciplinary research. The results of a bibliometric analysis and survey of early to mid‐career scientists from 56 countries who were involved with the interdisciplinary DISsertations initiative for the advancement of Climate Change ReSearch (DISCCRS) emphasize the particular challenges faced by early career researchers. Survey respondents perceive conflict between the need for interdisciplinary climate‐change research and its potential detriment to career advancement. However, participation in interventions for early career scientists, such as networking and training symposia, had both perceived and measurable impacts on the likelihood of engagement in climate‐centric interdisciplinary research. Respondents also ranked alternative mechanisms for encouraging incorporation of interdisciplinary science at early career stages, prioritizing funding of interdisciplinary seed grants, fellowships, and junior faculty networks, interdisciplinary teamwork and communication training, and interdepartmental symposia. To this we add the suggestion that interdisciplinarity be incorporated into tenure and promotion evaluations through the use of exploratory science mapping tools. Despite the need to foster interdisciplinary research and the availability of multiple prospective solutions, there remain expansive structural challenges to its promotion and recognition which, unless collectively addressed, will continue to hinder its potential growth and application to climate‐change science.

This article is categorized under:

  • Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Knowledge and Practice
  • Integrated Assessment of Climate Change > Methods of Integrated Assessment of Climate Change
Survey responses with respect to the roles and challenges of early career interdisciplinary research. Note that the total number of responses is 588 and that percentages do not add up to 100 because N/A responses are not shown. “Neutral” responses are shown in stippled pattern and percentage values are given for dominant agree/disagree categories
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Survey responses ranking initiatives to promote early career interdisciplinary research, based on 499 survey participants who responded to this question. Total responses to each initiative are not the same because N/A responses are not shown. Percentages are of total number of respondents for a given initiative, and are provided for all categories with >15% of responses
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Interdisciplinary metrics of peer‐reviewed publications authored by scientists who attended one of the first six DISCCRS symposia, as compared with those who registered with DISCCRS during the same time period, but did not attend that symposium. Results of analysis of 1,000 randomly selected climate‐change publications are given on right. Mean data are shown by DISCCRS class (year of seminar) for the percent of articles written by a given author with >1 subject area (a) and the ratio of number of articles authored by a scientist relative to the number of subject areas of those publications (b). Therefore, a higher degree of “interdisciplinarity” is represented by a higher value (a) and a lower value in (b). Stars above bar sets indicate significant differences (p < .001 in [a] and .001 < p < .062 in [b]) between categories shown. Data, sample size, and statistical results are found in Table S1
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Survey responses with respect to the role of the DISCCRS or other DISSCRS‐like (DIALOG, DIACES, NGPR) symposia in the promotion of early career IDR. Responses (212) are only from those who attended one of the two symposium groups: DISCCRS symposia (SDS) or other, similar symposia (SOS). Percentages do not add up to 100 because N/A responses are not shown. “Neutral” responses are shown in stippled pattern and percentage values are given for dominant agree/disagree categories
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