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A manifesto for good

interdisciplinary collaborations

by Johanna Barnbeck and Silja Klepp

To solve complex challenges like climate change and equality, you need diverse perspectives.

So that everyone can feel comfortable and be constructive while working together, we’ve drawn on our own experiences to highlight the most important aspects of a successful interdisciplinary collaboration.


  1. People often underestimate how much they will need to invest in conceptualization, communication, time, and resources in order to achieve a fruitful and successful interdisciplinary collaboration. Are we ready to communicate continuously with each other? Can we all afford to invest upfront, without knowing what the result will be?

  2. Interdisciplinary collaborations require courage because they initially involve more uncertainty than research within one’s discipline. How can we create an inviting, reassuring, and sustainable atmosphere that makes people curious about each other? 


  3. Security is based on trusting the people involved and trusting the diverse paths to scientific knowledge. This is also true of one’s own foundations and limits. Can I be relaxed about the limits to my knowledge, seeing these limits as helpful? Or do I need to defend them because I believe that I have to assert myself?

  4. To every project, we bring our own preconceptions and expectations about the process and the results. These are often very different due to our different disciplinary backgrounds. What are our different expectations?


  5. A central component of interdisciplinary research is reflecting together upon the epistemological assumptions at the heart of our collaboration. Who are you as a researcher? Who am I? Who are we together? What are the unavoidable or desired differences that we bring together as a result?

  6. Interdisciplinary research questions and methods are, at least in their combination, different from (multi)disciplinary questions. How can we formulate an interdisciplinary research question that makes us equal partners?


  7. Artists and scientists can participate in interdisciplinary collaborations on an equal footing. What particular conditions are created by combining artistic and scientific perspectives?


  8. Flexible thinking and empathy are essential components of interdisciplinary collaborations. What methods do we know that can help us change our intellectual perspective again and again?

  9. Science and art often involve hierarchical structures and temporary or precarious financial security. What can we do so that these difficult conditions are neither a taboo nor a restriction on our interdisciplinary collaboration?


We developed the COLLAB game to work out these central questions, which arise from our experiences in various interdisciplinary projects. COLLAB is designed to help improve existing structures and avoid reproducing discrimination. By increasing everyone’s awareness of the context, the game is intended to empower research groups and their individual members.  

We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on interdisciplinary collaboration in general or about COLLAB in particular. You can get in touch with us here.

Enjoy exchanging ideas and playing COLLAB!

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