2020-05-29Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2020.00063
SMART Research: Toward Interdisciplinary River Science in Europe
Interdisciplinary science is rapidly advancing to address complex human-environment interactions. River science aims to provide the methods and knowledge required to sustainably manage some of the planet’s most important and vulnerable ecosystems; and there is a clear need for river managers and scientists to be trained within an interdisciplinary approach. However, despite the science community’s recognition of the importance of interdisciplinary training, there are few studies examining interdisciplinary graduate programs, especially in science and engineering. Here we assess and reflect on the contribution of a 9-year European doctoral program in river science: ‘Science for MAnagement of Rivers and their Tidal Systems’ Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate (SMART EMJD). The program trained a new generation of 36 early career scientists under the supervision of 34 international experts from different disciplinary and interdisciplinary research fields focusing on river systems, aiming to transcend the boundaries between disciplines and between science and management. We analyzed the three core facets of the SMART program, namely: (1) interdisciplinarity, (2) internationalism, and (3) management-oriented science. We reviewed the contents of doctoral theses and publications and synthesized the outcomes of two questionnaire surveys conducted with doctoral candidates and supervisors. A high percentage of the scientific outputs (80%) were interdisciplinary. There was evidence of active collaboration between different teams of doctoral candidates and supervisors, in terms of joint publications (5 papers out of the 69 analyzed) but this was understandably quite limited given the other demands of the program. We found evidence to contradict the perception that interdisciplinarity is a barrier to career success as employment rates were high (97%) and achieved very soon after the defense, both in academia (50%) and the private/public sector (50%) with a strong international dimension. Despite management-oriented research being a limited (9%) portion of the ensemble of theses, employment in management was higher (22%). The SMART program also increased the network of international collaborations for doctoral candidates and supervisors. Reflections on doctoral training programs like SMART contribute to debates around research training and the career opportunities of interdisciplinary scientists.
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