Interdisciplinarity and poverty research 2010 prof david gordon


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Interdisciplinarity and poverty research 2010 prof david gordon

  1. 1. Interdisciplinarity and Poverty Research Professor David Gordon Director Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research University of Bristol IAS Seminar on Interdisciplinarity Leaving the comfort zone – when postgraduate research encounters the social/natural science divide Room 410, Graduate School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square 5th May 2010
  2. 2. Web Site:
  3. 3. Aims Over 50 academics from 12 departments in the Social Science and Law, Medical, Engineering and Science Faculties, together with colleagues from The Policy Press, are involved in a research-based initiative with the following aims: •The production of practical policies and solutions for the alleviation and eventual ending of world poverty. •Greater understanding of both the ‘scientific’ and ‘subjective' measurement of poverty. •Investigation into the causes of poverty. •Analysis of the costs and consequences of poverty for individuals, families, communities and societies. •Research into theoretical and conceptual issues of definition and perceptions of poverty. •Wide dissemination of the policy implications of research into poverty.
  4. 4. Collaborating departments Collaborating departments Below is a list of the departments and centres collaborating to form the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, and a link to the poverty- related publications by department: Child and Adolescent Health Departmental Publications Children of the 90s (ALSPAC) Departmental publications Department of Community Based Medicine Departmental Publications Economics Departmental publications Engineering Departmental publications Graduate School of Education Departmental publications Geographical Sciences Departmental publications School of Law Departmental publications Norah Fry Research Centre Departmental publications Policy Studies Departmental publications Politics Departmental publications Psychiatry Departmental publications Social Medicine Departmental publications Sociology Departmental publications
  5. 5. Millennium Development Goals Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger Target 1: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education Target 3: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling Goal 3 Promote gender equality and empower women Target 4: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and in all levels of education no later than 2015 Goal 4 Reduce child mortality Target 5: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate Goal 5 Improve maternal health Target 6: Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio Goal 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases Target 7: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS Target 8: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of Malaria & other major diseases
  6. 6. The Terrible Costs of Poverty in Developing Countries
  7. 7. Age at death by age group, 1990-1995 Source: The State of the World Population 1998
  8. 8. Death Toll of 20th Century Atrocities Death toll of young children from poverty, 1990 to 1995
  9. 9. Only the good die young? – what kills children Cause of death for children under five Bars show estimated confidence interval
  10. 10. The Costs of Poverty in the UK
  11. 11. Summary of Outcomes of Child Poverty Outcome Are Outcomes Associated with Poverty? • Mortality Yes, strong association with social class • Morbidity Yes, strong association for most diseases • Accidents Yes, for fatal accidents (but not accident morbidity) • Mental Illness Yes • Suicide Yes • Child Abuse Yes, except sexual abuse • Teenage Pregnancy Yes • Environment/Housing Conditions Yes • Homelessness Yes • Low Education attainment Yes • School exclusions Don’t Know • Crime No • Smoking Mainly after childhood • Alcohol No • Drugs No • Child Labour No Source: Bradshaw (2001)
  12. 12. Economic Cost of Child Poverty in the UK Child poverty costs the UK at least £25 billion a year, (equivalent to 2% of GDP) including £17 billion that could accrue to the Exchequer if child poverty were eradicated. Public spending to deal with the fallout of child poverty is about £12 billion a year, about 60 per cent of which goes on personal social services, school education and police and criminal justice. - The annual cost of below-average employment rates and earnings levels among adults who grew up in poverty is about £13 billion, of which £5 billion represents extra benefit payments and lower tax revenues; the remaining £8 billion is lost earnings to individuals, affecting gross domestic product (GDP).
  13. 13. Child Poverty in the UK The UK Government is committed to tackling the problem of child poverty. In March 1999, the Prime Minister Tony Blair set out a commitment to end child poverty forever: “And I will set out our historic aim that ours is the first generation to end child poverty forever, and it will take a generation. It is a 20-year mission but I believe it can be done. The Child Poverty Bill currently at the Parliamentary Committee stage (since 20th October 2009) will enshrine this policy commitment into UK law in 2010.
  14. 14. Child Poverty Act 2010 Places in legislation the commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020, this means that UK Secretary of State will have a duty to meet the following child poverty targets: •Relative poverty: Less than 10% of children living in relative low income poverty by 2020. •Material Deprivation: Less than 5% of children living in combined material deprivation and low income. •Absolute low income: Reduce the proportion of children who live in absolute low income to less than 5%. •Persistent Poverty: percentage of children living in relative poverty for three out of four years (target level to be set by the end of 2014 as data are currently unavailable) Requires the UK Secretary of State to publish a UK child poverty strategy, which must be revised every three years.
  15. 15. Taxonomy of cross disciplinary research : multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary Level one: Multidisciplinary Researchers work in parallel or sequentially from disciplinary-specific base to address common problem Level two: Interdisciplinary Researchers work jointly but still from disciplinary-specific basis to address common problem Level three: Transdisciplinary Researchers work jointly using shared conceptual framework drawing together disciplinary-specific theories, concepts, and approaches to address common problem Rosenfield, P.L. (1992), The Potential of Transdisciplinary Research, Social Science and Medicine, 35, 1343-1357.
  16. 16. Interdisciplinarity is the emergence of insight and understanding of a set question through the integration of different concepts, methods, and theoretical frameworks assembled from a wide cross-section of disciplines to generate novel concepts and synthesize new theories. In practice, many proposed interdisciplinary efforts ultimately work at the multidisciplinary level. multidisciplinarity, while a group of researchers from different disciplines cooperates by working together on a set problem towards a common goal, they continue to do so using theories and methods from their own discipline, with occasional use of output from each other’s work. They remain within the boundaries of their own disciplines in regard to both their working practices and results. True interdisciplinary research renews the individual disciplines by introducing new questions, ideas, and methods. Brown, E.N. (2002) Interdisciplinary Research: A Student's Perspective, Chemical Education Today, 79, 13-14.
  17. 17. Implication of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary research for academic structure and career paths Type Of Research Academic Structure Career Path Multidisciplinary Within existing Attractive opportunities disciplines and faculties Interdisciplinary Between disciplines and Needs strengthening? – faculties: creation of new may harm career? joint programmes Transdisciplinary Synthesis of Does not exist departments – new department, new field of inquiry Keyfitz (1991) “Calls to interdisciplinary research go unheeded because of the organisation of academic life”
  18. 18. The Continuum of Interdisciplinary Research Type of Ideal Reality Research Traditional Need graduates in both Hire scientists and technicians and humanities and sciences display artwork at headquarters Multidisciplinary Coordination of independent A gaggle of disciplines share a dean efforts. Combination of many and get their pay checks from a disciplines to solve problem central office Interdisciplinary Cooperation with mutually Has a complicated decision structure beneficial arrangements not unlike the United Nations. Much directed to solving specific time spent in meetings and problems developing a unified programme which is never completed Integrated Collaboration in working jointly Like the USA – a melting pot that has to resolve a common problem dissolved into angry debates over with shared plan, conceptual multiculturalism framework and responsibility for implementation Pickett, S. et al (1999) Interdisciplinary Research, Ecosystems, 2, 302-307
  19. 19. Number of Papers: 1990 to 2002 Disciplines Interdisciplinary Multidisciplinary Transdisciplinary Research Research Research Economics 53 5 1 Epidemiology 31 24 1 Health Policy 2 0 0 Nursing 31 22 0 Occupational Health 5 5 0 & Safety Political Science 7 2 0 Psychology 636 82 9 Slatin, C. et al (2004) Interdisciplinary Research in Health Care, Public Health Reports, 119, 60-72
  20. 20. Collaborative Research is Better Research The idea that the lone academic produces the ‘best’ research is incorrect. Repeated studies have shown that collaborative research usually produces better results. For example, in Economics, more collaboration leads to ‘more frequent, longer and better publications’ (Hollis 2001). Collaboration is associated with fewer rejections in journal submissions (Presser 1980) Co-authored papers tend to receive more citations (Johnson 1997) However, collaboration also tends to lead to fewer papers in total per researcher (Hollis 2001). – The RAE & Promotion Problem!
  21. 21. Barriers to Interdisciplinary Research 1) The Career Problem: you get promoted by publishing in ‘mainstream’ journals in you own discipline, as a sole author and by being named as the principal investigator on the grant. 2) The Time Problem: interdisciplinary research is much harder and takes much longer. You have to learn enough about other disciplines to understand what they are talking about i.e. their technical terms, concepts, methods and research agendas. This means lots of meetings. 3) The Xenophobia Problem: you have to be able to accept (largely on trust) that your collaborators from other disciplines are as ‘good’ at their jobs as you are at yours and have as valid points of view. 4) The Group Work Problem: Group work is a specialist skill and it is one that few academics are trained in; for example how to accept and deal with the fact that not all participants are likely to be equally committed to working together? 5) The Publication Problem: where to publish? who’s name goes first? What to do if a referee does not understand an interdisciplinary paper? Acceptance rates in ‘top’ journals vary by subject e.g. 9% in economics, 22% in psychology, 42% in health and 69% in physics. 6) The Budget Problem: budgets and ‘credit’ often devolve down to disciplinary departments.
  22. 22. Group Dynamics Many (most?) groups go through four main phases: forming (pretending to get on); storming (knowing they don't get on and being angry); norming (getting used to each other); and performing (working in a group to a common goal). It is very important to avoid ‘groupthink’ where each member of the group attempts to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of the group. This will lead the group to make ‘bad’ or irrational decisions e,g, going to war with Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction Groupthink can be avoided by ‘consensus decision making’, which is a decision process that seeks the agreement of a majority of participants and also to resolve or mitigate the objections of the minority. Note it is the process of decision making that is important.
  23. 23. Some pointers to successful interdisciplinary poverty research 1) Identify a common problem for which no single discipline is capable of finding a comprehensive solution 2) Make a commitment to cooperate 3) Try to work with a team of people who have similar levels of commitment 4) It is essential to trust the professionalism and expertise of your partners and value the contribution of everyone in the group – not just those with the ‘best’ work habits and ideas 5) Try to work with a team of people who are willing to assume and share responsibility and leadership. 6) Make sure you have enough time to complete the project – interdisciplinary research is much slower and therefore more expensive than discipline based research 7) Always remember that an interdisciplinary research strategy is probably the only way to solve the really difficult problems.