The Austrian Science Fund FWF invited the research teams of the newly launched Young Independent Researcher Groups to an information exchange workshop. This programme for the up-and-coming generation brings together young researchers for interdisciplinary collaboration. They discussed the challenges and success factors for such interdisciplinary groups at the Haus der Forschung in Vienna on 22 July 2019.
As of early 2019, seven teams have been pursuing unconventional research approaches under the auspices of the new FWF programme for Young Independent Researcher Groups (Zukunftskollegs in German). The programme’s motto: Together we are stronger. This well-known adage also applies to research. These days, anyone who explores complex research topics or major issues of social relevance can hardly succeed without an interdisciplinary approach. For this reason, researchers are already working in teams made up of different disciplines and bringing differing perspectives to important issues.
Challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary work
Working in interdisciplinary groups also raises new questions for researchers regarding the organisation and objectives of projects. What are the methods and approaches needed for the project, what are the rules of the game in mixed teams, which “language” prevails, how are decisions made and, finally: How can the quality of their joint work be evaluated?
FWF supports research teams
This first FWF workshop has now provided an opportunity to discuss such central questions for the members of the Young Independent Researcher Groups. The event offered a platform for exchanges across all research teams and projects: 16 participants addressed aspects such as the dynamics in mixed teams, structural and learning processes, the best way to beneficially harness creative tensions resulting from interdisciplinary research, and, last but not least, the key factors for successful work in mixed science teams. The strong commitment and interest of the participants illustrate that there is a need for exchanges and interaction. The FWF will thus continue to provide them with a platform and offer regular workshops in order to focus even more on diversity as an opportunity in research.
“In an open and creative atmosphere, we were able to exchange ideas with the top scientists of tomorrow on how to work together and to provide input. There are already some Austrian research institutions that offer support and incentive systems for interdisciplinary approaches. We hope that this trend will continue”, says Uwe von Ahsen, who is in charge of the strategy and development of the FWF’s national support programmes.
Pilot phase of Young Independent Researcher Groups
In the first call for proposals in 2018 for the Young Independent Researcher Groups, a concept developed by the Austrian Science Fund FWF in collaboration with the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), seven of the 58 projects submitted were approved for a total of 13 million euros. The new programme will support interdisciplinary and cross-institutional research teams of 3 to 5 people for a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 5 years after graduation with a ceiling of 2 million euros per group. An international jury well-versed in interdisciplinary research evaluates the project submissions.