Preparing scientists for interdisciplinary research

A few weeks ago, there was an article in EOS, the American Geophysical Union newspaper, about a recent survey conducted of graduate students from two large interdisciplinary research projects.  The findings from the survey, I believe, are right on the money.  Scientists preparing for interdisciplinary research careers must learn many diverse skills that do not typically come from coursework in graduate school.  Rather they gain skills through various informal means such as through their mentors, peer-groups, or on their own.  Perhaps the main take-away message for current graduate students is that key skills for interdisciplinary research identified in the survey were communication, data analysis, and computer programming/modeling.  In the hydrologic sciences, these skills are crucial, so graduate students…be creative and find ways to gain skills in these areas.  The authors of the article also a call for structuring or restructuring interdisciplinary graduate programs so that they provide training in the skills and techniques that will support new scientists in fields dealing with complex issues such as global environmental change.

Article:  LeDee, O.E., Barnes, R.T., Emanuel, R., Fisher, P.R., Henkel, S.K., Marion, J.R., 2011. Training a new scientist to meet the challenges of a changing environment, Eos, 92(16): 135-136. (requires individual or university membership).