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Report Open Access

Crossing Borders - Interdisciplinary Reviews and Their Effects

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Contact person(s)
Jürgen Güdler

The report considers the aspect of 'interdisciplinarity' when decisions are made on proposals submitted to the DFG. It was commissioned by the Senate Committee on Strategic Planning.

The term 'interdisciplinarity' is generally used to describe the situation in which representatives of different disciplines work together on research. The term 'research discipline' has numerous meanings. It is not possible to define the core of a discipline unambiguously. Therefore, it follows that the limits and transitions between disciplines cannot be characterised either. In each instance when empirical access to a subject is required, a new examination must be made of the data and its suitability for a sufficiently robust treatment.

In this study, empirical access to the subject was provided by the analysis of reviews of approximately 20,000 new proposals for individual grants submitted to the DFG on which decisions were made from 2005-2010. The disciplines with which the reviewers were associated were evaluated on the basis of the DFG's classification system, distinguishing between 48 different subject areas.

A review process conducted jointly by researchers from different disciplines was used as an indicator of interdisciplinary research. The analysis focusses therefore less on the reasons for and manifestations of interdisciplinarity than on where interdisciplinary collaboration occurred in the range of subjects funded by the DFG.

The report addresses three main questions:

  • What is the significance of interdisciplinary reviews in the way the DFG manages its funding activities?
  • Are differences between the funding rates of specific disciplines and proposals reviewed jointly by reviewers from different disciplines and how enduring are these differences over time?
  • What effects on the structure result from the proximity and distance of all 48 disciplines considered in the study, which is shown on the "Network of Disciplines" graphic?

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