Project deliverable Open Access

Draft System of Preconditions for Successful Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Integration

Taylor-Wesselink, Keisha; Wallace, Doireann

Project leader(s)
Ohlmeyer, Jane
Project member(s)
Curtis, Caitriona; Lyall, Catherine; Fletcher, Isabel; Vienni Baptista, Bianca; Pohl, Christian; Studer, Sibylle; Spaapen, Jack

SHAPE-ID is a Coordination and Support Action funded by the European Commission, which aims to improve the integration of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences into interdisciplinary research (IDR) and transdisciplinary research (TDR). The project began with a number of activities intended to gather understandings and insights on best practices, barriers and enablers of IDR/TDR. We conducted an extensive review of academic and policy literature, surveyed interdisciplinary researchers across Europe, and organised a series of six learning case workshops (three in-person and three online) to learn from the experiences of researchers, funders, policymakers, decision-makers in higher education and representatives of other sectors that participate in and co-create research: industry, civil society and the cultural sector. Results from these activities will inform the final project output – a toolkit and recommendations to improve pathways to AHSS integration for each of these groups.

As an intermediate step, we undertook to establish a working system of preconditions for AHSS integration, using the outputs of the evidence-gathering phase: reports and a policy brief based on the literature review, survey and interviews (Work Package 2); and reports and a policy brief based on the learning case workshops (Work Package 3). The purpose of this task was, firstly, to synthesise results from the project and provide an organised point of access to what we have learned about the preconditions for good AHSS integration.  Secondly, our goal was to derive recommendations based on this synthesis for initiating the processes of change needed to move towards improved interdisciplinary integration among the AHSS disciplines and between AHSS and Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEM) disciplines. A draft system of categories was presented to the SHAPE-ID Expert Panel in November 2020 and their feedback has informed this revised document. That feedback and the current document will inform the development of the SHAPE-ID toolkit.

In this document we begin with a discussion of the challenge of creating a system of categories adequate to such a complex domain, with reference to the project’s findings and a review of previous classifications of various kinds for interdisciplinarity (ID) and transdisciplinarity (TD). These are complex concepts and practices with contested definitions and multiple histories across different geographical regions – as are disciplines themselves. Furthermore, as our findings have reinforced, the challenge is compounded by the need to account for multiple stakeholders, levels of activity ranging from the individual to the research and innovation system in its totality (including its intersection with societal challenges and policy priorities) and the fact that different challenges arise at different phases of planning, developing and evaluating funding programmes and individual research projects. We recognise that just as no single definition is adequate for such a complex set of practices, there can be no single system of categories that exhaustively maps the relevant actors, relationships and processes. Any system of categories is necessarily provisional. However, this system of preconditions contributes to existing IDR/TDR knowledge by increasing understanding of the challenge of integrating the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (particularly the underrepresented Arts and Humanities) for IDR/TDR and how they can be supported for better outcomes.

We propose a system of preconditions for AHSS integration based on a mapping of the SHAPE-ID findings and further informed by a thematic classification derived from a review of the existing literature on classifications of IDR/TDR.

These preconditions fall into three broad categories:

  1. Structural factors supporting AHSS integration, including research policy and funding and institutional supports;
  2. Competencies and attributes necessary for AHSS integration, such as individuals’ attitudes and skills acquired through practical experience or training in IDR/TDR as well as disciplinary training;
  3. Cross-cutting categories that underpin and connect the first two categories, for instance through improving shared understandings of IDR/TDR, clarifying partner roles and relationships in an IDR/TDR project and creating collaborative conditions.  

Informed by this classification, the SHAPE-ID toolkit will offer practical recommendations and guidance for different users in achieving more successful AHSS integration.

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