Evolving academic culture to meet societal needs
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Given today’s complex societal challenges, academia should work better with government, industry and others in offering innovative solutions that benefit our society, economy and environment. Researchers across disciplines must work together and with decision-makers to understand how science can have better on-the-ground impacts toward longer-term, resilient societal outcomes. This includes, for example, by working with end-users in problem formation and throughout research projects to ensure decision-making needs are being met, and by linking physical science to additional fields like economics, risk communication or psychology. However, persistent barriers to collaborating across disciplines and with external decision-makers remain. Despite decades of studies highlighting the need for interdisciplinary research and science for decision-making, academic institutions are still not structured to facilitate or reward such collaboration. A group of researchers and educators used a mixed-methods approach to consider the knowledge base on interdisciplinary research and evidence-based policymaking, as well as their own experiences, and formed targeted and actionable recommendations that can help academia overcome these barriers. Their recommendations, specifically targeted to administrators, institutional leads, individual researchers, and research funders, align to three categories: define the role of academia in linking to policy; incorporate nontraditional standards in evaluating success; and build trust while drawing the line between knowledge dissemination and activism. By implementing the following recommendations, academics can foster the culture change that is needed to promote interdisciplinarity, strengthen the impact of their work and help society address urgent and multi-faceted problems.