A decade of interdisciplinary research on sustainable development goals

June 13, 2022

In a recent publication, Wageningen University & Research Interdisciplinary Research & Education Fund (INREF) shares lessons learned from inter and transdisciplinary research and education over the last decade. What can researchers achieve when looking beyond the limitations of their own domain and collaborating with stakeholders in the field?

INREF was launched in the year 2000. The research and education fund of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) was created to stimulate scientists towards interdisciplinary research and education. INREF’s leading principle is that critical, complex global issues cannot be solved by remaining within the boundaries of a single scientific domain. ‘These issues call for an interdisciplinary research and education approach that combines perspectives and methods from different disciplines,’ writes rector Arthur Mol in his preface to ‘Crossing borders to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals’. This recently published book provides an overview of the results achieved in the last ten years.

‘Crossing borders’ is the second INREF-publication. In 2010, the book ‘Journey into Interdisciplinarity’, on the fund’s first ten years, was published.

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International unique programme

Since the launch of the programme, 263 scientists obtained their PhD on INREF projects in 28 different countries. ‘Together with interdisciplinarity, education is one of the cornerstones of the fund. INREF want projects to contribute to capacity building in the global south, says Jelle Maas, INREF programme coordinator. ‘The third cornerstone is projects’ contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.’ Maas underscores that INFREF is a unique programme in the world.

Seventeen projects are described in ‘Crossing Borders’, including research on Panama disease that threatens the production of bananas and research on making oil palm plantations in Thailand and Indonesia more sustainable. In many of the projects, scientists collaborated amongst themselves but also sought connections with local stakeholders such as farmers and policymakers. INREF believes that impact is reached when science is rooted in practice.