EXPERIENCE OF GW4 CRUCIBLE: Benefits of Interdisciplinary collaborations

GW4 Crucible Alumni and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Exeter, Dr Andrew Jones, explains the importance and benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to the GW4 Crucible research themes.

(Image above: GW4 Crucible 2020: Lab 1)

I am postdoctoral researcher in the Theology and Religion department at University of Exeter. I am a humanities researcher with a background in philosophy, theology, and the history of science. At first, attending the GW4 Crucible was rather daunting. This feeling quickly lifted as the Labs encouraged me to explore how humanities researchers can contribute to the development of novel interdisciplinary research projects with scientists.

The GW4 Crucible 2020 programme has been a greatly rewarding and stimulating experience that has enabled aspects of my research to develop in unexpected directions. I am co-authoring a book chapter with Dr Ray Chan (University of Exeter) on ‘The biopolitics of farming and the role for ecotheology’. I am also applying to sources of funding for two interdisciplinary projects with several researchers I met at the GW4 Crucible. These projects are investigating azole use in farming in Bristol and Devon, and investigating public attitudes toward AMR stewardship.

I applied to the programme because it presented an opportunity to network with early career researchers (ECRs) from various scientific disciplines working on the topic of AMR. I have gained an awareness of the huge variety of work currently undertaken in this area. However, this only scratched the surface of the opportunity for development that the GW4 Crucible had to offer. What I had not considered was how to identify, create, and maintain effective interdisciplinary collaborations. The training sessions aimed at developing leadership skills raised a number of issues that I was not incorporating into my decisions surrounding my future career in academia.

It is clear that the GW4 Alliance team have an exceptional attention to detail when preparing both the content and the structure of the Crucible programme. The structure of the Labs encourages you to build professional networks and think about your identity as both an independent and a collaborative researcher. Many of the sessions focused on discussions with current leaders from academia and industry. It was refreshing to listen to their assessments regarding the current academic climate and their own diverse (and often unplanned) journeys to their current positions as leaders. It was somewhat therapeutic to engage in supportive discussions with ECRs at various levels of precarious work and discuss ways to manage the tension between planning careers whilst acknowledging the contingency and uncertainty often associated with academic careers.

The GW4 Crucible programme is a fantastic opportunity to develop new networks, and take a moment to consider how your current projects and skills will facilitate your future development. I found the programme to be incredibly rewarding; I have left with many new friends and collaborators, and a confidence to develop successful interdisciplinary networks building on the leadership skills I have learnt from the GW4 Crucible programme.