In partnership with the other UK higher education funding bodies and the Medical Research Council, we commissioned Elsevier to conduct a quantitative review of interdisciplinary research.
Using the disciplinary diversity of article bibliographies as a proxy for interdisciplinarity, the study examined the intensity and performance of interdisciplinary research activity in the UK and in eight comparator countries in the years 2009-2013. The findings show that:
- UK interdisciplinary research activity is growing in intensity, in line with a global trend
- UK interdisciplinary research is highly collaborative in international terms, with over 45 per cent of the most interdisciplinary publications co-authored with international colleagues
- academia makes a major contribution to UK interdisciplinary research, with 85 per cent of the most interdisciplinary publications including at least one author from academia.
The report also observed:
- a higher intensity of interdisciplinary research activity in the emerging research nations included in the study
- a lower citation impact associated with interdisciplinary research among all countries examined
- the high and stable performance of UK research, with the UK’s publications (including the most interdisciplinary) attracting the highest citation impact of all comparator countries.
A supplementary report analysed outputs submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and observed a lower proportion of the most interdisciplinary publications in REF submitted outputs than has been observed for the UK as a whole. The reasons for this difference need detailed exploration through a qualitative study, which the funding bodies intend to conduct later this year.