Interdisciplinary research

These pages list a variety of recent reports exploring the UK research landscape and interdisciplinarity and provide information about the Research Excellence Framework Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel.

What is interdisciplinary research?

Interdisciplinary research is an important feature of the UK research base.

As a term it is often understood in many different ways.

For the purpose of these pages the term interdisciplinary is used to refer to the full spectrum of interdisciplinary activity including cross-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work. 

Studies into interdisciplinary research

The following reports consider some of the issues associated with interdisciplinary research.

Each report explores the issues from a different perspective but collectively they:

  • highlight a range of barriers and incentives for interdisciplinary research in the UK

  • explore the challenges associated with assessing interdisciplinary research

  • provide some real-world examples of ‘what works’ in supporting an IDR culture in today’s higher education research institutions.

This research will inform the work of the Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel.

This panel will advise the REF team, REF panel chairs and the UK funding bodies on approaches to support the submission and assessment of interdisciplinary research in REF 2021.

What is the Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel and what is its role?

The Interdisciplinary Research Advisory Panel (IDAP) advises the REF team, REF panel chairs and the UK funding bodies on the approach to support the submission and assessment of interdisciplinary research (IDR) in the REF. 

The panel will advise on whether it should have a specific role in the submissions and assessment phase of the next REF in summer 2018, following the completion of its initial work.



Professor Dame Athene Donald

Master of Churchill College Cambridge, University of Cambridge



Professor John Clarkson

Director, Cambridge Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge

Professor Bruce Brown

Visiting Professor, Royal College of Art

Professor Mark d'Inverno

Pro-Warden International, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor Rick Delbridge

Dean of Research, Innovation and Engagement at Cardiff University, academic lead for the Social Science Research Park (SPARK), Cardiff University

Dr Tori Holmes

Lecturer and Researcher, Queens University Belfast

Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott

Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor – Research and Innovation and Strategic Development, Swansea University

Professor Ursula Martin

Professor of Computer Science, University of Oxford 

Professor Hugh Mckenna

Dean of Medical School Development, Ulster University

Dr Lisa Mooney

Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Knowledge Exchange, University of East London

Professor Judith Phillips

Deputy Principal (Research), University of Stirling

Professor Barry Smith

Director of the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study

Professor Veronica Strang

Executive Director of Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University

Dr Sophie von Stumm

Lecturer, Goldsmiths-University of London

Professor Joyce Tait

Director of the Innogen Institute, University of Edinburgh

Recruitment process for IDAP

The IDAP has been constituted on the basis of nominations from the four national academies, UK funding bodies and Practice Research Advisory Group (providing specific advice on the inclusion of practice based research).

The process was designed to ensure nominations for individuals with interdisciplinary research expertise or experience from across the disciplinary spectrum.  

The criteria are also intended to take account of a range of other factors including region and institution type.

Equality and diversity

All nominees were asked to provide anonymous equality and diversity information to allow the UK funding bodies to monitor the diversity of the pool of candidates and to compare it to the diversity of the appointed panel.

This will form part of equality and diversity monitoring that will take place throughout the REF process.

See also

The second Research Excellence Framework