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Switchboard NRP

An ambassador network to accelerate sustained interdisciplinary working

The need

Addressing global development and sustainability challenges demands interdisciplinary, cross-institution and international research programs with clear pathways to impact and insightful impact reporting, as reflected in recent grant calls such as GCRF. Delivering measurable impact on global challenge research programs requires transdisciplinary integration to achieve.

The challenge

Despite being located on a diverse research park, truly inter-institutional, interdisciplinary projects are not commonplace. From workshops, interviews and conversations, the recurring main suggestions for this shortfall in cross-discipline research are believed due to:

  • Difference/gaps in language and knowledge schools
  • A lack of visibility and operations of silos
  • Perceived difficulty in organising and managing interdisciplinary work
  • Donor preference and grant writing strategy


To address the need despite these challenges, we need a diverse cohort of ambassadors selected from across the Norwich Research Park and international research hubs who communicate effectively across disciplines, consistently identify areas of opportunities and reliably influence interdisciplinary research spanning individual and institutional levels.

We propose an approach to deliver this convening network and outline methods to ensure its proliferation beyond the lifetime of the initial program.

The program will be called Switchboard NRP to symbolise the network as a point of contact to establish new links between people and to unite this action as a site-wide service.

The program will train a cohort of 16 early career \’ambassadors\’ from across the NRP research centres to achieve this aim. The ambassadors will be managed by an initial council of four members who wrote this proposal for the program length. These individuals will then replaced by an ongoing council elected from within the cohort itself.

In addition to this NRP cohort, 8 individuals from research campuses in the global south will be recruited and including in the training. Preference will be given to researchers whose area of interest aligns with those of the study foci of the park.

Each individual from the global south will be paired up with a pair at the NRP based on similar research areas. These groups will then foster peer coaching through the ASSET approach (Active Scientist Support Exchange Team), explained in the methods area below. The ASSET component will enable all researchers involved to develop their writing, application and ability to review or help others with documents of these kinds. 

Switchboard NRP ambassadors will be regarded as \’people in the know,\’ convening agents who are always approachable and reliable. They will be \’structural holes\’ who leverage the full rich abundance of research of the NRP towards the greatest global challenges.

Switchboard diagram

Ambassadors & team

Head of school

Laura Camfield

Head of school
Director, John Innes Centre

Dale Saunders

Director, John Innes Centre
Director, The Sainsbury Laboratory

Nick Talbot

Director, The Sainsbury Laboratory
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