Following the establishment in 2017 of the UvA’s Interdisciplinary Doctorate Agreement (IDA), a gathering was held on Monday, 21 October, at the Institute for Advanced Studies to celebrate the hiring of the last of 11 PhD candidates under the initial phase of the agreement.
The IDA was set up because, while interdisciplinarity sits high on the agenda of the UvA, the vital interchange between education and research can be hard to guarantee. As Lucy Wenting, Director of Education at the UvA’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, said at the event: ‘Finding academics who can teach students to do interdisciplinary research is one of our biggest challenges. Helping the students to understand each other’s research languages, and to be open to the possibility of doing so, is the key. Interdisciplinary PhD candidates like those gathered here today are vital to this process. You are our future.’
In order to adapt to these needs, the IDA was born, initially offering 10-12 PhD places for those pursuing innovative interdisciplinary research. The 11 future PhDs from a hugely diverse array of backgrounds came together to present what this interdisciplinary research will look like when put into practice. From the ways that personal attitudes may have an effect on judicial decisions to the digitisation of fertility using apps to whether altruism developed as a way of helping to attract the opposite sex – the researchers will examine areas that require input from more than one of the traditional disciplines.
With the link between education and research secured, it is hoped that a virtuous circle will be created, where interdisciplinary programmes will in turn be a key source of innovative research. As Peter Sloot, Scientific Director of the UvA’s Institute for Advanced Studies states, interdisciplinary science is urgently needed: ‘In today’s complex world, where everything is interwoven with everything else, and where cause and effect are often hard to unravel, the most pressing societal questions cannot be studied in isolation.’ Sloot adds: ‘We need a new scientific method to unlock the treasures of our traditional mono-disciplinary silos, and we need it now!’
Following the presentations by each of the candidates on their chosen subjects, the group came together for a wide-ranging discussion of the challenges and possibilities of interdisciplinary research. How to navigate different departments with different ways of working, how to combine methodologies from diverse subjects which on the face of it have little in common, how to integrate possibly conflicting feedback from supervisors in entirely different disciplines. It was agreed that there should be regular meetings of the candidates to stimulate the exchange of knowledge, contacts and ideas.
The full list of 11 PhD candidates and their studies is: