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      Supporting early career researchers: insights from interdisciplinary marine scientists

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          Abstract

          The immense challenges associated with realizing ocean and coastal sustainability require highly skilled interdisciplinary marine scientists. However, the barriers experienced by early career researchers (ECRs) seeking to address these challenges, and the support required to overcome those barriers, are not well understood. This study examines the perspectives of ECRs on opportunities to build interdisciplinary research capacity in marine science. We engaged 23 current and former graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in a policy Delphi method with three rounds of surveying that included semi-structured questionnaires and q-methodology. We identified the following five barriers that limit ECRs’ capacity for interdisciplinary research: (i) demanding workloads; (ii) stress linked to funding, publishing, and employment uncertainty; (iii) limited support for balancing personal and professional commitments; (iv) ineffective supervisory support; and (v) the steep learning curve associated with interdisciplinary research. Our analysis highlights three main types of responses to these barriers adopted by ECRs, including “taking on too much”, “coping effectively”, and “maintaining material wellbeing at any cost”. To overcome these barriers, we propose the following three institutional actions to build early career interdisciplinary researcher capacity: formalize mentorship, create interdisciplinary research groups, and mainstream mental health support.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development

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            Interdisciplinary research has consistently lower funding success.

            Interdisciplinary research is widely considered a hothouse for innovation, and the only plausible approach to complex problems such as climate change. One barrier to interdisciplinary research is the widespread perception that interdisciplinary projects are less likely to be funded than those with a narrower focus. However, this commonly held belief has been difficult to evaluate objectively, partly because of lack of a comparable, quantitative measure of degree of interdisciplinarity that can be applied to funding application data. Here we compare the degree to which research proposals span disparate fields by using a biodiversity metric that captures the relative representation of different fields (balance) and their degree of difference (disparity). The Australian Research Council's Discovery Programme provides an ideal test case, because a single annual nationwide competitive grants scheme covers fundamental research in all disciplines, including arts, humanities and sciences. Using data on all 18,476 proposals submitted to the scheme over 5 consecutive years, including successful and unsuccessful applications, we show that the greater the degree of interdisciplinarity, the lower the probability of being funded. The negative impact of interdisciplinarity is significant even when number of collaborators, primary research field and type of institution are taken into account. This is the first broad-scale quantitative assessment of success rates of interdisciplinary research proposals. The interdisciplinary distance metric allows efficient evaluation of trends in research funding, and could be used to identify proposals that require assessment strategies appropriate to interdisciplinary research.
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              Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                ICES Journal of Marine Science
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                1054-3139
                1095-9289
                January 14 2020
                January 14 2020
                Affiliations
                [1 ]School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada
                [2 ]Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
                [3 ]Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University, St Catharines, ON, Canada
                [4 ]Department of Geography, Memorial University, St John’s, NL, Canada
                [5 ]Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
                [6 ]Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
                [7 ]Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
                [8 ]School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
                Article
                10.1093/icesjms/fsz247
                © 2020

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