Donors Want to Fund Interdisciplinary Research

Interdisciplinary grant research has become increasingly important in today’s world as many of the most pressing issues facing society are complex and multifaceted. In order to fully understand and address these issues, it is often necessary to bring together experts from multiple disciplines to collaborate on research projects. This type of collaboration can lead to breakthroughs in knowledge and innovation that might not be possible otherwise. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognizes this and encourages interdisciplinary research by providing funding opportunities that require collaborations across different fields.


The advantages and opportunities of collaboration across disciplines are numerous; however the following are key factors:

Broader scope:

Interdisciplinary proposals can address research questions from multiple perspectives, which can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the problem and potential solutions. For example, a team of researchers might include experts in biology, engineering, and social sciences to study the impacts of climate change on a particular ecosystem. Each researcher brings their own knowledge and expertise to the project, allowing the team to explore the problem from multiple angles.

Cross-pollination of ideas and techniques:

When researchers from different fields come together, they can learn from each other and apply techniques from one field to another. This can lead to new ways of approaching problems and new discoveries that might not have been possible otherwise. For example, a team of computer scientists and psychologists might collaborate on a project to develop new methods for analyzing large datasets of social media interactions. By combining their expertise, they might be able to develop new insights into human behavior and social networks.


Interdisciplinary grant research can also lead to the development of new technologies and innovations. By bringing together experts from multiple fields, researchers can leverage their collective knowledge to develop new tools and technologies that can benefit society. For example, a team of researchers from biology, engineering, and materials science might collaborate on the development of new materials for use in medical implants. By combining their expertise, they might be able to develop materials that are biocompatible, durable, and able to stimulate tissue regeneration.

Bridging the gap between academia and business:

Interdisciplinary grant research can help to bridge the gap between academia and industry. By working together on research projects, academic researchers and industry professionals can share knowledge and expertise, and develop new technologies that can be commercialized. This can lead to the development of new products and services that can benefit society and the economy. This is one of the major reasons that eleven of the federal funding agencies include and fund the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant competitions.


Interdisciplinary proposals also have challenges that can make them more difficult to write and evaluate. For example, coordinating the research and collaboration among multiple disciplines can be complex and require careful planning and communication. Also, Integrating different methodologies and approaches from multiple disciplines can be challenging and require careful consideration, preparation, and coordination. In addition, when it comes to the review of these proposals, reviewers with expertise in a single discipline may find it difficult to evaluate the interdisciplinary nature of the proposal, which can lead to bias or misunderstandings.

In conclusion, interdisciplinary grant research is an important tool for addressing complex problems and developing innovative solutions. By bringing together experts from multiple fields, researchers can draw on a diverse range of perspectives and expertise, develop new technologies and innovations, and bridge the gap between academia and industry. Overall, while interdisciplinary proposals can be more competitive due to their potential for innovation and impact, they also require careful planning and coordination to be successful.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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