A need has arisen within the water sector’s joint research programme (BTO) for more multidisciplinary research. This research is especially suited to tackle (aspects of) complex issues, such as climate change and urbanisation. Moreover, it promotes scientific innovation and creativity. But multidisciplinary research generally involves greater uncertainty about the research process and its outcomes. This report provides KWR researchers and water company stakeholders with insight into the specific approach required by this kind of research, in order to capitalise on opportunities and address challenges. We conducted a literature study to discover what a multidisciplinary approach means in terms of the content, form and approach of research projects.
Literature study and a look at application to BTO research practice
We collected the important elements from the existing literature on multidisciplinary research, a field that has been the subject of extensive publication. We then applied these insights to BTO practice, while drawing on previous interviews with BTO stakeholders and BTO documents.
Attention in management, supervision and evaluation
The literature study shows that multidisciplinary research differs from mono-, inter- and transdisciplinary research in the extent to which different types of knowledge are integrated. But knowledge integration also entails (major) intellectual and organisational challenges. Multidisciplinary research can – more than monodisciplinary research – be viewed as a form of experimentation, in which not only are there bigger uncertainties about the process and outcome, but also about the potential rewards. It is recommended that, in the management, supervision and evaluation of BTO, multidisciplinary research be given the specific attention it merits in the different stages of the research process.