The Familiarity Trap: Collaborative Research and Teaching Lessons from 6 Interdisciplinary Projects (Preprint).

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Interdisciplinary projects can be surprisingly challenging for experienced academic collaborators socially, intellectually, and practically. Within disciplines, common sets of philosophical assumptions, practical knowledge-bases, and professional goals can help groups to wrestle though interpersonal differences in attitudes, ideas, priorities and work habits that each participant brings to the table. However, in projects that span disciplines, even those basic commonalities cannot be relied on as members coordinate their plans, integrate their approaches, and disseminate their findings. By creating an intensive one-year model for interdisciplinary research-into-teaching projects, UCSB's Crossroads program has been able to compare reported experiences from six groups progressing though common phases of interdisciplinary collaborations and the predictable challenges that arise during such work. Many of the groups' reported needs for dedicated planning and preparation may sound obvious or tedious to academics who have not experienced the unique demands of interdisciplinary research and teaching. That is the “familiarity trap” highlighted here: those communication and coordination pitfalls most likely to sneak up on diverse groups of experts, confident in their own fields, working under pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages31
StatePublished - Jun 29 2021


  • graduate education; interdisciplinary education; interdisciplinary teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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