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The X-Net project – a partnership between the Universities of Edinburgh, Dundee, and Oxford – publishes its recommendations following extensive consultation with the biomedical research community.

For science to give maximum benefit to society and the economy, academic research requires root-and-branch reform that transcends individual, siloed disciplines.

Existing Future Leaders Fellowship and PhD programmes have bulldozed barriers for some, yet many seeking to change discipline still face daunting career obstacles. Funders acknowledge these obstacles, but action is urgently required if the next generation of world-leading scientists is to overcome them.

The X-Net project is an interdisciplinary network that aims to understand the barriers to interdisciplinary research and to catalyse the change required to nurture research talent in the UK.

The network’s evidence-based report is a policy roadmap which has been presented to funding bodies and policy makers with a view to influencing improvements in working environments for interdisciplinary researchers, with a particular focus on those in their early careers.

The report, Sweeping Away Barriers to Interdisciplinary Research published on 5 March 2024, highlights common career and funding roadblocks and offers recommendations to increase the retention and impact of interdisciplinary researchers in the UK.

Its 13-step programme of targeted interventions would deeply weave interdisciplinarity into UK scientific research culture and free the flow of ideas and expertise across traditional disciplinary boundaries and sectors.

Recommendations highlight the crucial importance of increasing mobility across disciplines and sectors, nurturing interdisciplinary research environments, and ensuring fair and sustainable evaluation of research.

The report is based on widespread consultations with early career researchers, industry scientists, and key opinion leaders from the biomedical community through UK-wide workshops, surveys, social media engagement, and interviews. The challenges faced are expected to be experienced across most research fields. 

Dr. Charlotte George, X-Net Training Coordinator and a postdoctoral computational biologist in the Sims Group, said: 

One of the aspects of XNETs research that has concerned us is the amount of risk interdisciplinary researchers face in pursuing an academic career, their work is often highly collaborative by nature and they often fall between the gaps of traditional funding and promotion metrics which combined with longer timeframes needed for training and outputs can make progressing in the current academic system seem impossible. These recommendations aim to address multiple system-wide issues, focusing on the research system as a whole to produce a more collaborative environment for all researchers where interdisciplinary researchers are included and can also thrive. 

Read the full story on the MRC Human Genetics Unit website here.

Read the report at

The views and conclusions expressed by X-Net are those of the network and do not necessarily reflect the official position of project collaborators.

The X-Net project is funded by the Medical Research Council and is managed and supported by:

X-Net is very grateful to the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery, University of Oxford, for its collaboration and support.