Is pretenure interdisciplinary research a career risk?



Despite initiatives to promote interdisciplinary research, early-career academics continue to perceive professional risks to working at the interface between traditional disciplines. Unexpectedly, the inherent practical challenges of interdisciplinary scholarship, such as new methodologies and lexicons, are not the chief source of the perceived risk. The perception of risk is pervasive across disciplines, and it persists despite efforts to support career development for individuals with common interests [Mitchell and Weiler, 2011]. Suggestions that interdisciplinary work can go unrewarded in academia [Clark et al., 2011] foster a concern that targeting interdisciplinary questions, such as those presented by climate change, will pose problems for acquiring and succeeding in a tenure-track position. If self-preservation limits the questions posed by early-career academics, a perceived career risk is as damaging as a real one to new transdisciplinary initiatives. Thus, institutions should address the source of this perception whether real or specious.


DISCCRS is supported through NSF grants SES-0931402 to the University of Oregon and SES-0932916 to Whitman College and NASA grant NNX10AJ53G to Whitman College.