Evening sky with many bats. In the down left corner a video camera can be seen

In this unique edition of the interdisciplinary interview series (see #1, #2, and #3 for the previous editions), we had the privilege of interviewing a dynamic team of four(!) researchers. They shared their experiences from their truly trans- and cross-disciplinary project on science education. The team comprised of Dr. Katharina Düsing (IPN), Dr. Daniel Lewanzik (IZW), Vanessa van den Bogaert (Ruhr-Uni Bochum) and Dr. Hannah Greving (IWM).

Dr. Katharina Düsing
IPN – Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education, Kiel
Leibniz Section A
Profession: Science Education Researcher; Biology Teacher by training

Dr. Daniel Lewanzik
IZW – Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin
Leibniz Section C
Profession: Biologist

Vanessa van den Bogaert
Ruhr University Bochum, Germany (current affiliation: Leibniz University Hannover, Institute of Education)
Profession: Educational researcher

Dr. Hannah Greving
IWM – Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien, Tübingen (current affiliation: Leibniz University Hannover, Institute of Education)
Leibniz Section A
Profession: Social Psychologist

For me, interdisciplinary work means…

Katharina Düsing (D): Collaborating and communicating with each other and creating an outcome that researchers from only one discipline could not achieve.

Daniel Lewanzik (L): Widening my own horizon but also facing unexpected challenges; unexpected because one would not face these when working within one’s discipline.

Can you explain the topic of your joint project?

Vanessa van den Bogaert (vdB): Our interdisciplinary VideT project aims to develop and evaluate a video-based transfer instrument for communicating the empirical scientific research process and its inherent ways of scientific thinking and working to secondary school students.

Hannah Greving (G): This is relevant to investigate because knowledge transfer of new scientific findings to the public is becoming increasingly important. Also, it is often difficult for students to interpret and understand these findings correctly. This is because the presentation of scientific findings often focuses exclusively on research results without explaining the associated research process. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the VideT project, since it is convinced of the importance of the project goals.

Why was interdisciplinarity important for your joint project?

D: Developing and evaluating a video-based transfer instrument for secondary school students, on the one hand, requires authentic scientists providing insights into their research results as well as their research processes. In our case, the content of the videos is based on current research projects on the ecology of bats and the effects of human activities on these animals. On the other hand, the development of the video scripts and the didactical material for students in the out-of-school labs as well as the evaluation of the transfer instrument require expertise from biology education, social psychology, and educational science.

What are the key findings until now; and how did they benefit from interdisciplinarity?

L: In general, our project benefits from interdisciplinarity since it is the key to bring an authentic research process into school in a manner designed to foster students‘ competencies as well as measuring the effects. We have thus far developed videos for different learning formats whose system and level of detail result from interdisciplinarity.

vdB: We also traveled to Thailand together, where a film company we work with filmed and interviewed the biologists during their fieldwork on bat ecology, while the educational researchers checked the consistency of the interviews with the scripts from a didactic point of view. In both phases (desk and field work), it was both helpful and necessary that all disciplines share their expertise and everyone was willing to think beyond the boundaries of their discipline.

Communication of interdisciplinary research and within interdisciplinary teams can be challenging. Can you share your experiences?

G: We learned that talking to each other frequently is beneficial, but these conversations are time-consuming and sometimes we need to discuss the understanding of very basic terms in the different disciplines. Despite this, precisely these discussions lead to joint decisions which, on the one hand, help us progress in the project and, on the other hand, represent added value in terms of comprehensibility for students, even considering possible comprehension difficulties.

What advice can you give postdocs for upcoming communications for their interdisciplinary projects?

D: For upcoming communications, we would advise to invest the time for joint discussions and collaborative work. In addition, communications need a good moderator who focuses and bundles all perspectives, trust within the team and a pleasant atmosphere for asking even basic comprehension questions, as well as the openness and courage of everyone to think both within and beyond their comfort zone.

Were there factors in your education or background that particularly prepared you for interdisciplinarity?

L: Our answers differ a bit as we all have different backgrounds. However, on a general level, we feel our educational background did not explicitly prepare us for interdisciplinarity. Still, we have all had experiences (e. g. our studies, other projects) that have taught us the ability to take different perspectives into account and that have given us the confidence to successfully and quickly learn new things.

Beyond your enthusiasm for the topic: are you putting your scientific career at risk by working in an interdisciplinary project? What are relevant aspects?

vdB: Except for the time involved, we do not see risks for our scientific careers by working in an interdisciplinary project. On the contrary, we feel that it fosters important skills for further scientific careers by broadening one’s own perspective and network and by learning to communicate one’s own point of view clearly and comprehensibly.

Is the scientific system in Germany prepared for interdisciplinary research? Do you have suggestions on how interdisciplinary work can be fostered (by Leibniz)?

G: Maybe not entirely. There are increasing numbers of interdisciplinary projects in the German scientific system and lots of PhD students have already started working on such projects. There are also already many interdisciplinary journals, but the
review system in some disciplines is not yet interdisciplinary.

D: Team meetings in person are important for interdisciplinary work, but team members often work at different Leibniz Institutes and the organization of team meetings can sometimes be time-consuming for the host. Therefore, we suggest offering a working center by Leibniz to facilitate the organization of team meetings.

Apart from interdisciplinarity, what would you like to advocate for?

L: Apart from interdisciplinarity itself, we think that it is important to continue the discussions about the working conditions in science. If those are namely good, researchers will remain interested in doing interdisciplinary research in the future.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Ms. van den Bogaert, Drs. Düsing, Lewanzik, and Greving for supporting our interview series on interdisciplinarity with their participation.

Find out more about the interviewees and their work:

    • Project Links:
    • Contact data
    • Dr. Katharina Düsing
      • Researchgate
      • @k_duesing (on Twitter/X)
    • Dr. Daniel Lewanzik
      • Researchgate
      • @d_lewanzik (on Twitter/X)
    • Vanessa van den Bogaert
      • Researchgate
    • Dr. Hannah Greving
      • Researchgate

Find here Interdisciplinarity Interview #1: The different dimensions of educational values with Dr. Jennifer Meyer and Dr. Jan Scharf

Find here Interdisciplinarity Interview #2: The different dimensions of power grid resilience with Dr. Mehrnaz Anvari and Dr. Thomas Vogt

Find here Interdisciplinarity Interview #3: Raman spectroscopy as a diagnostic tool – a stimulus for interdisciplinary collaboration with Dr. Anja Silge and Dr. Stefanie Deinhardt-Emmer.

Want to find out why we created this interview series?

Want to learn more about the first interview series on COVID related research?

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