Interdisciplinarity and funding within Nordic energy research
The Finnish journal Tieteessä Tapahtuu [Science Now] has just published the article Monitieteisyyden ja tutkimusrahoituksen näkökulma pohjoismaiseen energiatutkimukseen [An interdisciplinary and research funding perspective on Nordic energy research] written by…
The Finnish journal Tieteessä Tapahtuu [Science Now] has just published the article Monitieteisyyden ja tutkimusrahoituksen näkökulma pohjoismaiseen energiatutkimukseen [An interdisciplinary and research funding perspective on Nordic energy research] written by Antti Silvast, Senior Adviser at Nordic Energy Research.
The article focuses on interdisciplinarity and funding within Nordic energy research and draws on some of the experiences that Nordic Energy Research has gained in connection with the call management of the Era-NET Smart Energy Systems (SES) since 2015.
Research funding and interdisciplinarity
In the article, Antti Silvast provides an overview of interdisciplinary energy research and presents an evaluation model that Nordic Energy Research has used to evaluate the interdisciplinarity of a research project. In addition, Antti Silvast presents his experiences with interdisciplinary evaluation and its need for development.
The main message of the article is about how research funders should become better at appreciating interdisciplinary topics and supporting such topics in the evaluation process. It is well-known that interdisciplinary research projects may have more difficult access to funding compared to conventional projects from a single academic discipline. Interdisciplinarity is a popular topic in university strategies and research policies but has yet not become an integral part of research funding practice.
As an example of an exception Antti Silvast highlights the 3-layer model of the ERA-Net SES as a model for interdisciplinary evaluation that involves different experts (e.g. electrical engineers, economists, social scientists) in the evaluation of specific proposals. Antti Silvast explains the principles of the 3-layer evaluation model to the Finnish world of research and funding in an attempt to increase awareness of the evaluation model and receive feedback from Finnish experts.
The 3-layer model of the ERA-Net SES
Like all evaluation models, the 3-layer model of the ERA-Net SES requires continuous maintenance and is constantly evolving. The experience from ERA-Net emphasizes interdisciplinarity and disagreements.
Firstly, it is important to maintain the interdisciplinary evaluation developed in ERA-Net SES. Not least, because energy research increasingly recognizes the value of interdisciplinary research that crosses conventional academic disciplines. Secondly, evaluation methods which recognize disagreements between evaluators have potential and should be further used in the future.
Interdisciplinarity must never replace research-based content
Even though Antti Silvast is a proponent of interdisciplinarity he concludes the article by emphasizing the importance of research-based content. In the future all evaluators within research funding should continue to focus on research-related content and not just the amount of interdisciplinarity.