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Creating integrated communities of natural and social scientists

The sustainable development need

Holistic design of sustainable development approaches through transdisciplinary teams. 

The sustainable development challenges are multidisciplinary by their nature. Subsequently, addressing them requires expertise from a diverse group of research fields. We see this harmonious working across disciplines as part of the core to our approach. 

Working across disciplines can be difficult. Natural and social sciences use their own language that might be inaccessible to those outside the field. They may also have differences in approach to the design and delivery of research and its outputs. DevSET (Development Support Exchange Team), brings together early career researchers from across disciplines to train them in how to work effectively together towards the Sustainable Development Goals.     

Our transdisciplinary response

The NISD has facilitated a cohort training programme of early career researchers across biology, ecology, economics, health, pharmacy, plant sciences and social sciences. The course trains researchers in project design, impact planning, peer learning, co-coaching and effective communication.

Participants are tasked with developing their own theories of change of their research and collaborate on this impact planning with others in the group from outside their discipline. This training environment provides the researchers with the chance to consider their own work through the lens of another field and to equip the cohort with a toolkit to collaborate across disciplines for the rest of their career. 

Partners and progress

The NISD team

The NISD team brings together partners from across the Norwich Research Park with collaborators in Cambridge University.

Chris Darby

John Innes Centre

Arjan Verschoor

UEA International Development

Peter Emmrich

UEA International Development

Matt Heaton

UEA International Development

Progress, outputs and outcomes

DevSET was successfully run for the pilot cohort. Following this first round, the participants ran projects across the UK, Kenya, Madagascar and Ethiopia.

Example projects include engagement with smallholder farmers, exploring barriers to biotechnology adoption, scientific capacity building and increasing visibility for NGOs. All of these projects incorporated monitoring and evaluation frameworks into the design to allow the participants to critically assess and develop their work. Many of these projects have been designed to continue across multiple placements to add further legacy to each participant’s work.


  • UKRI-BBSRC GCRF – JIC Impact Acceleration Award


If you are interested in this project and would like to know more, please contact:

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