Perspectives of clinician and biomedical scientists on interdisciplinary health research

Laberge, Suzanne; Albert, Mathieu; Hodges, Brian D.
November 2009
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;11/24/2009, Vol. 181 Issue 11, p797
Academic Journal
Background: Interdisciplinary health research is a priority of many funding agencies. We surveyed clinician and biomedical scientists about their views on the value and funding of interdisciplinary health research. Methods: We conducted semistructured interviews with 31 biomedical and 30 clinician scientists. The scientists were selected from the 2000-2006 membership lists of peer-review committees of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We investigated respondents' perspectives on the assumption that collaboration across disciplines adds value to health research. We also investigated their perspectives on funding agencies' growing support of interdisciplinary research. Results: The 61 respondents expressed a wide variety of perspectives on the value of interdisciplinary health research, ranging from full agreement (22) to complete disagreement (11) that it adds value; many presented qualified viewpoints (28). More than one-quarter viewed funding agencies' growing support of interdisciplinary research as appropriate. Most (44) felt that the level of support was unwarranted. Arguments included the belief that current support leads to the creation of artificial teams and that a top-down process of imposing interdisciplinary structures on teams constrains scientists' freedom. On both issues we found contrasting trends between the clinician and the biomedical scientists. Interpretation: Despite having some positive views about the value of interdisciplinary research, scientists, especially biomedical scientists, expressed reservations about the growing support of interdisciplinary research.


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