As someone who has worked in both the humanities and STEM, I’m very interested in interdisciplinary work between the two fields. Personally, I’ve found that I end up drawing from both my humanities and STEM backgrounds in my current research, so I truly believe that some amazing work can come from these collaborations. If you’re thinking of collaborating with a non-STEM academic, here are some tips to help make your work go smoothly…
- Remember that you’ll need to teach along the way. It’s easy to forget that the person you’re working with may not understand science-related concepts to the same degree that you do! For instance, I recently wrote a paper with a non-STEM academic. I wrote a treatment for the paper, and when I sent it to her, she emailed me back with, “I don’t really understand your argument?” Oops! I didn’t even think to explain what I was talking about in the text. Remember that you’ll have to introduce your partner to your field a bit, at least enough for them to understand what you’re talking about. I found that setting up a specific meeting to talk about basic concepts in my work helped us understand each other better.
- You’ll also have to learn. Of course, it goes both ways! My non-STEM writing partner definitely had to teach me a lot about her field as well. One of the most helpful things she did was to send me a little “information bundle” before we started working together – in it were loads of helpful resources to help me understand her work a bit better. It was so helpful I ended up sending her a similar “information bundle” to help her out as well! Remember to ask for help if you need it – after all, it’s a joint project, so anything that helps you, helps the whole thing.
- Have consistent meetings. This may be obvious, but having consistent meetings (daily, weekly, monthly) really do make an improvement to your work! This is especially true for interdisciplinary projects – you’ll want to be meeting on a consistent basis in order to make sure things are completely clear between the two of you, given your differences in expertise.
- Make sure you both agree on your aims and objectives. Speaking of consistency, make sure you both agree on the scope of your project! It’s easy to let a project get away from you, especially if some of it isn’t necessarily part of your field. By agreeing to the aims and objectives right at the beginning, you and your partner will be able to narrow down what you need to know about the other’s field to make sure you understand what you’re trying to tackle.
- Be open to new things. Most importantly, be open to new ideas. The beauty of working with someone that’s not in your field is that they have different perspectives and opinions based on their training. Don’t be afraid to give your own input, or consider others’ inputs to your ideas as well! Who knows – it could lead to some revolutionary work that’s never been done before.