The Elusive Pursuit of Interdisciplinarity at the Human–Environment Interface


Environmental challenges are complex and require expertise from multiple disciplines. Consequently, there is growing interest in interdisciplinary environmental research that integrates natural and social science, an often arduous undertaking. We surveyed researchers interested and experienced in research at the human-environment interface to assess perspectives on interdisciplinary research. Integrative interdisciplinary research has eluded many of our respondents, whose efforts are better described as additive multidisciplinary research. The respondents identified many advantages and rewards of interdisciplinary research, including the creation of more-relevant knowledge. However, they also reported significant challenges and obstacles, including tension with departments (49%) or institutions (61%), communication difficulties, and differing disciplinary approaches, as well as institutional barriers (e.g., a lack of credit in promotion and tenure). Most (52%) believed that developing interdisciplinary breadth should begin as early as the undergraduate level. We apply our results to recommendations for successful interdisciplinary endeavors.

BioScience, 63(9) 745-753
Tobias Kuemmerle
Tobias Kuemmerle
Professor & Head of the Conservation Biogeography Lab