Interdisciplinarity Committee Reports

PDAD&C #19, 2007-08

Memorandum

To: Principals, Deans, Academic Directors & Chair
From: Vivek Goel, Vice-President and Provost
Date: October 3, 2007
Re: Interdisciplinarity Committee – Reports on Best Practices for Fostering Interdisciplinarity and Governance and Administration


The Policy on Interdisciplinary Education and Research Planning commits the University to promoting and fostering ‘interdisciplinary education and research through the development of academic guidelines and practices, organizational structures, and budgetary and financial frameworks that permit and enable interdisciplinary education and research to grow’. Following approval by Governing Council of the Policy (February 2007) and the development of the Guidelines for Administrative Functions and Protocols of Extra-Departmental Units (EDUs), the Interdisciplinarity Committee focused on identifying best practices for administration and governance of EDUs, and mechanisms for fostering interdisciplinary education and research. Accordingly, two working groups were established:

  • The Governance and Administration Working Group to research and identify best practices for administration and governance of EDUs.
  • The Fostering Interdisciplinarity Working Group to examine barriers to interdisciplinarity and to provide recommendations and best practices to foster interdisciplinary research and teaching.

The two working groups met over the course of the spring. There was a close working relationship between the two groups as several of the matters discussed related to the work of both. The Interdisciplinarity Committee reviewed the reports in June 2007. The reports can be found at http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/policy/interdisciplinary.htm .

Together, the two reports reflect that strong interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching respond to new academic developments and that flexibility is required to work across groups in a very complicated organizational structure – interdivisional, intercampus and inter-institutional, in addition to interdisciplinary. There are several points of agreement between the reports:

  • The University has historically promoted interdisciplinary research and teaching with many successes. It is also important to stress, that notwithstanding the commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching, the University remains strongly committed to fostering strength and excellence in the disciplines.
  • Both groups highlight the need to recognize that interdisciplinary research and education will continue to occur in a variety of formal and informal ways. Thus, the variety of approaches makes it particularly important to communicate and share best practices for those initiatives that are formally constituted.
  • Clear communications regarding a unit's mode of governance and its administrative links to existing structures at the university are critical. These links allow for integration, rather than isolation, of interdisciplinary research and education.

The Interdisciplinary Committee will be meeting later this Fall to discuss the recommendations of the working groups in planning the next steps. I encourage you to review these two reports and discuss them with your colleagues. Comments regarding the recommendations of the working groups can be sent to Helen Lasthiotakis, Director, Policy & Planning [h.lasthiotakis@utoronto.ca].