Reflections on being federated to a large, interdisciplinary research project

One of the huge advantages of being a GTRA (apart from the fact that you actually get paid for being a student), is that you get an opportunity to experience and learn from a variety of teaching and research situations. For me, the most exciting opportunity by far to this point is being involved with a large, interdisciplinary research project. I thought it might be good to reflect briefly on what I have learnt (or perhaps, what I am learning) so far:

  • that although we are often encouraged to meet and exchange ideas with people from other disciplines, for example in the SEED conference, the researcher development workshops, the methods@manchester seminars etc., it is only when you actually sit down and begin to thrash out ideas and ways of working with other disciplines that your thinking is really stretched and challenged. Being involved with a group of very experienced researchers who are doing just that, has made me realise the importance of consciously seeking out opportunities for exchanging ideas that go beyond the ‘so what’s your research about and what methods are you using’ chat. I haven’t worked out how to do that yet though!
  • that team research is hugely generative. It’s a shame we can’t do collaborative PhDs!
  • that it is a huge privilege to have 3 whole years to develop our thinking and the ideas around our research topics. Established researchers don’t seem to have that luxury – they have to fit it in among a hundred and one other work responsibilities.
  • that it is not just new or ‘early career’ researchers who have to battle with the process of research and the uncertainties, the doubts, the challenges, the highs and lows that come with it. These are things that veteran and highly experienced researchers also grapple with – at least if they wish to do work that is innovative and groundbreaking.
  • that risk-taking, boundary-pushing, feather-ruffling research is VERY exciting, but it needs visionary, gifted and gracious leadership to drive it (and this current project has a superb example of such leadership).

I have also had my own thinking pushed and pulled in all directions, as I have seen ideas I am using in my own research extended/adapted/appropriated for another context. The whole experience has been hugely enriching and I am sure there is still more to come!


One comment

  • Richard Fay

    Hi Susan, very interesting and pleasing to read these reflections. One addition from me: the theme of extending/adapting/appropriating ideas from one domain to/for another is something I’ve been musing on a great deal recently and may soo have something to share on the subject … 🙂