Lassoing unicorns: how to map capabilities for better interdisciplinary research


Bio: "I am a social scientist interested in the 'making of' digital technologies and policies. In addition, I research and practice interdisciplinary and collaborative inquiry as a way to address societal challenges. My academic journey started with pursuing a BSc in Geography and Geology, where I gained appreciation for nature and understood the urgency of environmental issues. This led me to embarking on a PhD programme where I explored the the notions of sustainability expertise in climate policy design. I was curious to find out how sustainability practitioners work together across sectors and what ""works"" for them when it comes to policy design. These epistemological questions naturally led me to a field called Science and Technology Studies (STS). Before joining Bristol, I worked on two STS projects analysing and evaluating inter- and transdisciplinary projects in robotics and sustainability. While cross-faculty collaborations are the norm in the contemporary academia, for the early-career researchers, they are still often a risky endeavour. What can universities and funders to to build capabilities and networks for collaborative research? Encouraged by the possibilities (if not challenges) of interisciplinarity, I joined the University of Bristol (Cyber Security Research Group) where I work on expertise creation during the implementation of a major industrial cyber security directive (NIS). This is an exciting area, which brings together engineers, IT experts, lawyers, regulators and sector-specific expertise. As the directive pertains to the critical infrastructures, I am mainly interested in the sectors like water, energy or transport. In addition, I continue my service at environmental science-policy interface as a member of Bristol's Advisory Committee on Climate Change where I lead a policy working group."

Cian O'Donovan, UCL

Joshua Moon, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU); University of Sussex

Bio: Mehdi has been a member of Bristol Robotics Laboratory since 2011 and worked on many EC-FP7 and EPSRC funded projects on Medical Robotics, safe interactive robots, Human-Robot Interaction, Robot Adaptive Behaviour, and Decision Making in joint-action. He had also a close collaboration with Experimental Psychologist and is experienced with Machine Learning and data analysis. He is currently a Research Fellow in the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics where his research is focused on the user-centred design of novel teleoperation interfaces using Virtual Reality.

Sometimes doing interdisciplinary work feels like trying to lasso unicorns. Working with big players from foreign disciplines and interdepartmental drifters. Negotiating over language and frameworks. Agreeing common research questions. All the while trying to gather data and do good work.Building on methods developed in ESRC and Horizon 2020 funded projects on interdisciplinary research; this workshop will: a) introduce the concept interdisciplinary capabilities - the disciplinary skills and informal aptitudes needed for people like environmental engineers; ecological economists and machine learning developers to work well together. (10 min)b) present a mixed-method approach to mapping capabilities using bibliometric analysis and interviews (30 mins)c) offer hands-on reflexive exercises on personal 'capability mapping'; tailored to workshop participants (up to 50 mins)The session will help scholars of all levels recognise power and knowledge in research and identify opportunities to steer that research together.Anticipated total time 1hr 30