The Research Councils have a strong track record of supporting multidisciplinary research through their Institutes, Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations (IRCs), and other university centres of excellence. Long term support in itself is important in giving scientists confidence and time needed to build strong collaborative links, and tackle methodological and conceptual barriers to joint working. Centres and institutes can give effective leadership and strategic commitment to developing new ways of tackling problems, and they can ensure access to the full range of equipment and skills needed for a broad approach to a problem.
Selected examples of other multidisciplinary initiatives include:
Big Data creates numerous opportunities for driving research and development, increasing productivity and transforming public and private sector organisations. RCUK is capitalising on this with their innovative investment “Big Data and Energy Efficient Computing”. This recognises the enormous potential of Big Data for the UK economy with a total sum of £189 million to invest in its exploitation. Further information is available here.
In 2009 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) commissioned Research Councils UK to lead a review to assess the progress to date and identify the next steps for development of the UK’s e-infrastructure for research and innovation. The recommendations of the RCUK International Review of e-Science, as well as the findings from a range of other studies, emphasised the importance of timely and coordinated actions in developing the UK’s e-infrastructure for research and innovation. The Review of e-Infrastructure and subsequent report addresses these actions, focusing on establishing an effective mechanism for co-ordination. Further information is available here.
Funding from ESRC, NERC, and BBSRC has enabled researchers to work together to investigate the social, economic, environmental and technological challenges faced by rural areas in the UK. The Rural Economy and Land Use Programme remains active and continues to consult among stakeholder organisations. Please visit the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) website for further information: www.relu.ac.uk
The Local Authorities Research Council Initiative (LARCI) established in 1997 to bring Local Authorities and the Research Councils into closer partnership has now reached the end of its funding. To replace LARCI the wide variety of research and knowledge exchange schemes that Research Councils run will be open to Local Authorities. Further information is available here
These awards aim to pump prime new collaborations, by providing researchers with opportunities to explore multidisciplinary research ideas – applying techniques and expertise from one field of research in another. BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC fund specific schemes at the life sciences interface (one for institutions and one for individuals). EPSRC also funds awards at the key multi-disciplinary interfaces within the physical sciences, for example at the chemistry-chemical engineering interface and the mathematics-computer science interface.
The Tyndall Centre is a national UK centre for interdisciplinary research on climate change. It is dedicated to advancing the science of integration; to seeking, evaluating and facilitating sustainable solutions to climate change and to motivate society through promoting informed and effective dialogue. It was founded in 2000, and is the result of collaboration between nine UK research institutions and three Research Councils: NERC, EPSRC and ESRC.
HFSP is an international organisation (UK subscription paid by MRC and BBSRC) which funds research grants for teams of scientists from different countries who wish to combine their expertise to approach questions that could not be answered by individual laboratories. Particular emphasis is placed on bringing scientists from fields such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, bioinformatics, nanoscience and engineering together with biologists to open up new approaches to understanding complex biological systems.
BBSRC is establishing a number of Centres for Integrative Systems Biology in partnership with relevant universities. These Centres will possess the vision, breadth of intellectual leadership and research resources to integrate traditionally separate disciplines such as biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics in a programme of international quality research in quantitative and predictive systems biology.
A number of the Research Councils support IRCs with consortia of leading UK universities. The IRCs aim to provide a UK focus of multidisciplinary research excellence in selected areas, undertaking excellent research, providing training for researchers and exploiting research outputs.
The three IRCs currently funded are: