EMCR Agony Aunt

Hamish Clarke
EMCR Pathways Editor & EMCR Forum Executive Member
Australian Academy of Science

Old style manual typewriter with blank paper inserted
EMCRs are encouraged to get in touch with their problems.

Science is the search for tentative answers. We’ll have none of that in our new column, EMCR Agony Aunt! Our advice will be rock solid, ironclad, foolproof, child proof, future proof and proof proof (for those of you hoping to undermine us with math).

We hereby call on EMCRs to get in touch with their problems, in the hope that we might together be able to work out a solution. After all, if our nation’s brightest young minds can’t help you, probably no one can.


Dear EMCR Agony Aunt,

I am what is affectionately known as an interdisciplinary researcher. I have a degree in psychology, but work and teach in a School of Business and Economics. I am going for promotion this year, but have just come back from a meeting with the School manager only to find out that the scientific journals that I publish in are not considered quality journals within my School and won’t count towards my promotion. Some of my papers aren’t even considered research! Without these I am unlikely to meet the requirements for promotion. What can I do? Do I need to move departments in order to progress my career? I really enjoy applying my psychology skills and methods to questions in business. Help!


Dr Psychobabble


Dear Dr Psychobabble,

Interdisciplinary research can be extremely rewarding. You get to work with other amazing individuals, who can take a fresh perspective to a common question. They often bring new skills and insights to a topic. And because you’re often not competing for the same position as your colleagues, it can be an extremely collegial and generous collaboration.

Working in another discipline can also throw up some challenges, particularly if you’re the odd one out. It can be a bit like starting a new school. But where they speak a different lingo, and have different playground rules that you don’t understand. The good thing is that interdisciplinary research is being increasingly valued by employers and funders, as they realise the enormous advantage of having a diverse workforce.

Universities and other workplaces in the sector are also beginning to understand some of the barriers and challenges to researchers working in unfamiliar disciplines. Unfortunately, universities are big and can sometimes move slowly. My advice would be note down the sorts of research quality measures that apply in your home discipline, in this case psychology. Sit down with your direct supervisor to let them know and get them onside. Then ask for a meeting with your School manager or Head of School and show them how your research would be regarded through the lens of your discipline. Maybe ask if your research outputs could be assessed by the relevant person in your home Faculty for a second opinion. Your new School wants you to succeed. But they have probably spent their entire careers working within their own discipline, where the rules were established a long time ago. They may not even know that others play by a different set of rules.

Remember, you’re a trailblazer! You may have to point out the challenges you face to your new colleagues. And if you want to learn more about working across disciplines, or other benefits or challenges of a diverse workforce, come to Science Pathways 2018 in Brisbane, and diversify your thinking!

Yours truly,

EMCR Agony Aunt

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