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Biologists are from Mars, chemists are from Venus?
Date:5/1/2008

Plays well with others.

That popular phrase on a T-shirt is being taken to a whole new level in higher education these days, as experts in a variety of fields increasingly must work together to address some of society's biggest challenges, from a warming planet to cancer.

But how do scientists from different disciplines and institutions collaborate? How do they work together to incorporate the distinct perspectives, languages and research styles of their fields?

When scientists from different disciplines say 'We work together,' we want to know what that means, says Steve Fifield, associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware.

Fifield, who is affiliated with the Delaware Education Research and Development Center at UD, is leading research to uncover how scientists from different disciplines form working relationships. The two-year project is funded by a $197,300 grant from the National Science Foundation's Innovation and Organizational Sciences program.

The findings will shed light on scientific collaboration--a process about which little is known, but much is expected.

Agencies such as the National Science Foundation have deemed large-scale interdisciplinary research projects critical to U.S. innovation and competitiveness, Fifield notes. Yet there have been few studies of how scientists actually bridge disciplinary boundaries. There's no 'how-to' for it--at least not yet, he says, smiling.

Fifield's research team includes co-investigators Regina Smardon, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, and Karl Steiner, associate director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, along with postdoctoral researcher Katherine McGurn Centellas and graduate research assistant Jennifer Koester.

Two emerging research centers at UD are the focus of the study. The Center for Translational Cancer Research involves individuals from UD, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children/Nemours, Christia
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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