The Irish education system, at all levels, must promote interdisciplinary ways of working if we are to succeed in the global economy and address pressing societal challenges. That’s according to the Irish Research Council, which is holding its annual conference today.

Speaking before the conference, Professor Orla Feely, Chair of the Irish Research Council, said: “Interdisciplinary research is about drawing on different skill-sets and areas of expertise when dealing with multi-faceted problems and issues so as to ensure the best possible research outcomes. 

“At the moment, academic disciplines tend to operate quite separately – at all levels of our education system. So, from primary school onwards, you can have students being told they are scientific, but not creative; or business-minded, but not linguistic; and so on. This leads them to think that operating in a silo is preferable to cultivating diverse skill-sets or collaborating with others whose skills and expertise are different to their own.

“So we need to promote and support the idea that work across disciplines can in many instances enhance outcomes and impact. More interdisciplinary elements should be introduced into school and third-level curricula, so that students are encouraged to bridge disciplines and apply their learnings from different academic subjects in a more cohesive way. This will ultimately benefit them and prepare them for the multi-faceted nature of the world’s challenges.”

Input by Madi Sharma

One of the guest speakers at today’s event was public speaker and entrepreneur Madi Sharma.

Commenting at the conference, Ms. Sharma, said: “Solutions for today’s and tomorrows challenges will not come from politicians but from individuals. In addition to encouraging different research disciplines to work together, we must also encourage other sectors to interact pro-actively with the research

He continued: “In addition to encouraging different research disciplines to work together, we must also encourage other sectors to interact pro-actively with the research community. Business, government and civil society can all benefit through research-focused collaborations. By encouraging such cross-sectoral partnerships, we can develop better public policies and better services for all citizens.”

Opportunities for the Irish Research Community

Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, officially opened today’s conference.  “Irish researchers and the higher education institutions continue to push the boundaries in European and world research,” he said. “This event is an opportunity for the research community to examine what the next opportunities are and to plan and set out how we will continue to punch above our weight amongst the international research community.”

The conference will also include an overview of the opportunities presented by Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation programme to date, with a budget of nearly €80 billion over seven years. According to the Irish Research Council, Ireland is well placed to secure significant funding under Horizon 2020.

The full conference programme is available at: http://research.ie/connectingcommunities-futureopportunities.