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Appendix 37: Interdisciplinary Activity

Effective January 24, 2006

It is well recognized that interdisciplinary work has increasingly become a frequent feature of scholarly work in recent years, and UCLA seeks to recognize and encourage the interdisciplinary engagement of its faculty.  To be effective, this requires that all parties engaged in the academic review process must be sensitive to the unique aspects of such interdisciplinary work, and to the varied settings in which interdisciplinary research and teaching are carried out.  

This appendix is intended to call specific attention to the diversity of interdisciplinary activities at UCLA so that reviewers—including Chairs, Deans, Departmental Faculty, and other reviewing bodies—can appropriately take these activities into account in the course of their evaluations.

The list below is an extended, but not exhaustive, accounting of interdisciplinary considerations that are embodied in UCLA’s interdisciplinary program, and hence constitute elements that are pertinent to departmental and campus reviews.

I. Departmental Evaluation           

Since the evaluation of faculty routinely begins in the faculty member’s primary department, it is important that departmental faculty and Department Chairs give due attention to the interdisciplinary activities in which the candidate may be involved. These activities may be formally recognized (e.g., through Joint Appointments) or they may be in the nature of informal collaborations, but in any case they are not to be treated as diversions from departmental duties but as integral features of the candidate’s contributions.  The essential question that is under review is the quality of the work, not its adherence to the vision of a restricted departmental mission.  In this respect, Chairs and reviewers should be aware that it might be necessary and appropriate on occasion to call on the expertise of an extra-departmental reviewer or committee member to adequately evaluate a candidate’s dossier.

II. Campus Ad Hoc Review Committee

The UCLA review process has traditionally incorporated an important interdisciplinary element in its review process through the rules that govern the nomination of campus ad hoc review committee members.  Though a departmental representative is routinely named to such committees, the Chair of the committee and the other members are regularly drawn from corollary departments so that the membership constitutes, in principle, an interdisciplinary committee.  Among other things, this means that the committee can readily provide appropriate expertise where, as is often the case, a candidate’s work bridges a variety of disciplines.   Deans and Chairs can recognize these interdisciplinary needs through the nominations they regularly provide as suggested members for ad hoc review committees.

Faculty have for some time had the option of participating in interdisciplinary work through formal appointments in secondary departments. Importantly, such appointments have recently been further encouraged through the adoption of the procedure described in Appendix 15 of The CALL.  It provides for a “waiver option” which allows faculty members to participate in such Joint Appointments without undergoing a full scale review by two departments. The candidate waives his or her right to participate in the personnel reviews in the secondary department, and at the same time the secondary department waives its right to participate in the joint appointee’s academic review.  The procedure is intended to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration while minimizing the review burden for both the candidate and the secondary department.  It is important, however, that the primary department takes note of the candidate’s contributions in such collaborative activity, and where appropriate, seeks input regarding such contributions from the Chair of the secondary department.  It is also important to recognize the stipulation in The CALL that departments are required to seek such input with respect to any affiliation that candidates may have (whether officially joint appointees or not) with other academic bodies on the campus (e.g., affiliation with research centers, interdisciplinary degree programs, centers for interdisciplinary instruction, and the like).  The attraction of Joint Appointments when it comes to recruitment of valued prospects is not to be overlooked.

IV. Extramural Evaluations

Candidates have the option of seeking interdisciplinary input regarding their work through their nominations to the Chair regarding extramural evaluators; and Chairs (or departmental ad hoc review committees) can, in their independent selections of extramural evaluators, likewise implement an interdisciplinary perspective. Thus, the body of extramural letters should be viewed as an opportunity to span the candidate’s breadth of contribution rather than simply a departmental focus.  An important aspect of such letters is that they identify in specific terms the nature of the candidate’s contribution to the diverse fields to which his or her work applies—a stricture that applies as well to the candidate’s own self-statement so that it is possible to know what creative contribution to the discipline or to related disciplines is identified with the candidate. It is most important for the candidate or other evaluators to identify the candidate’s contribution when there are multiple authors or contributors to published works.

V. Publication Credits

Reviewers regularly take note of the repute that is associated with journals in their field; but it is sometimes not easy to make such judgments regarding journals in other disciplines or journals that are specifically conceived as interdisciplinary in character. Nevertheless, it is important for reviewers to be attuned to the problem of making such judgments regarding journals that are not discipline-centered but are nonetheless quality venues to be taken seriously.  The important principle is to remain open-minded on an interdisciplinary basis regarding the quality issue, and to seek further advice where necessary in making an evaluation of the relevant journals.

VI. Council on Academic Personnel

The CALL, and the process of shared governance generally, provides for an inter-disciplinary body—the Council on Academic Personnel—to make recommendations to the Chancellor regarding important personnel actions. The Council is explicitly designed to be representative of a wide range of disciplines, and thus regularly conducts its work with an appreciation of interdisciplinary issues.  CAP members are appointed by the Committee on Committees of the Academic Senate which is charged with the duty of constructing a reviewing agency that is both diverse and representative of the gamut of faculty interests.

VII. Interdisciplinary Agencies

UCLA has recognized interdisciplinary concerns by providing a wide range of institutional bodies whose explicit purpose is to further interdisciplinary research and teaching.  As noted earlier, this includes such organizations as IDPs (Interdepartmental Programs) and CIIs (Centers for Interdisciplinary Instruction); but it also includes an extensive list of research and teaching organizations throughout the campus. It is not possible to list these in detail, but faculty and administrators need to take note of the extent of such bodies on the campus, since they provide opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration for the faculty and they are also sources of faculty evaluation.  The following are illustrative of such interdisciplinary campus agencies: The Brain Research Institute; African Studies Center; International Studies and Overseas Program (ISOP); Women’ Studies Program; Center on Aging; Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center; Institute of Labor Relations; and the like. UCLA’s commitment to interdisciplinary instruction is exhibited in the wide range of officially established “interdisciplinary programs,” (IDPs)—e.g., in Archaeology; Latin American Studies; Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology; Neuroscience; Environmental Science and Engineering; and Molecular Toxicology.

VIII. Research Grants and Proposals     

Interdisciplinary research grants are common on the campus, and are encouraged by the University.  Resources are available through the Office of Contracts and Grants to facilitate the submission of such grants. Deans and Chairs are encouraged to support such interdisciplinary research activities—e.g., through the provision of seed funds, space and other assistance—and to provide an intellectual climate that stimulates interdisciplinary research.

IX. Lecture Programs

There are a variety of established lecture programs that feature interdisciplinary work, and such programs are both welcomed and supported by the University. The Marschak Colloquium program is one example of such an established lecture series, and there are similar long-running programs in a number of fields.

X. Teaching and Graduate Training

Interdisciplinary teaching takes place on both an informal and a formal basis. Informally, faculty are encouraged to “team teach” courses that will profit from interdisciplinary views. More formally, the Honors Program is oriented in an interdisciplinary way, as is the program of undergraduate seminars instituted after the 9/11 disaster. In graduate studies, an interdisciplinary requirement is established through the rule that one member of the doctoral committee must be drawn from outside the primary department; but in that domain as well, informal cross-discipline consultations are encouraged. Interdisciplinary teaching is encouraged in many on-going interdepartmental programs (e.g., Neuroscience, American Indian Studies, Islamic Studies), and through thoughtful proposals for new multidisciplinary programs.


Issued 1/24/06

Web page updated 7/10/13