The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focus on a range of human freedoms; and these reflect the inherent inter-disciplinarity of human poverty reduction. However, productive interdisciplinarity continues to be a challenge for many social sciences in the field of international development. The process and challenges of undertaking interdisciplinary research were explored in a Global Development Network (GDN) workshop which used two established and distinctive research areas - HIV/AIDS and direct budget support – as illustrative case studies. Seventeen researcher practitioners from 13 disciplines and 13 low income and transitional economies, and Indigenous cultures, with a range of participant-observers from aid agencies and research networks, participated. In two evenly balanced streams, these subject matter experts took part in a range of structured group assessments. They (1) identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in interdisciplinary research, (2) designed interdisciplinary studies on HIV/AIDS and direct budget support, and (3) extrapolated implications for promoting interdisciplinary research in their own workplaces. Each of the parallel ‘content’ streams reported similar research process synergies and challenges, and reported recognising that interdisciplinary research is consistent with achieving the MDGs. We argue that the challenges of alignment and harmonisation of research in international development need to be addressed, and that this can best be facilitated by promoting interdisciplinary research. Furthermore, research utilisation is likely to be easier when the process of research recognises the multi-faceted and interlocking complexities that policy-makers, with practitioners, confront.
Global Development Network (GDN)
Interdisciplinary research for development : a policy paper