Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health Research Methodology


Lisa Dolovich


Kevin Brazil; Parminder Raina



Committee Member

Kevin Brazil; Parminder Raina


Increasingly over the last few decades, funders and academic institutions have promoted the idea of interdisciplinarity as a way of harnessing new knowledge and fostering innovation in science. This dissertation of 4 papers sought to articulate how interdisciplinarity is experienced by health researchers involved in interdisciplinary research and to develop and implement a literature-based, researcher-informed framework for assessing interdisciplinarity. Findings from Paper 1 suggested that interdisciplinary teams tend to be formed based on who can contribute tangible skills needed for answering the research question, however interpersonal factors (e.g. previous positive working relationship) also drive how teams are formed. Paper 2 involved the development of the Framework for Interdisciplinary Research Assessment (FIRA). The literature revealed limited empirical work related to interdisciplinary evaluation, however, a detailed list of issues and possible metrics for evaluation was compiled, and characteristics common to the structure-process-outcome framework of quality were used to conceptualize interdisciplinary health research evaluation. In Paper 3, interviews and a survey were used to populate the FIRA model. Overall, there was a sense that skills, personality, and knowledge were greater considerations than disciplinary affiliation. Paper 4 involved the application of social network analysis in order to understand knowledge sharing in an interdisciplinary team and results highlighted the important role of staff as conduits of information. Overall, findings indicated that though interdisciplinarity is valued conceptually, it can be challenging to operationalize in practice. The FIRA model offers a viable structured approach for teams to engage in formative and summative assessment of interdisciplinarity.

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