School of Social and Political Science

New toolkit to transform collaborative research approaches across disciplines

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Edinburgh researchers and partners have created a new toolkit to support collaboration between arts, humanities, and social science disciplines and STEM areas to solve society’s most complex challenges.


The toolkit will support researchers, research organisations, funders, policy makers and societal partners to work together creatively and innovatively across disciplinary boundaries. It aims to address questions such as: how can artists work with scientists or historians with engineers to create societal change?

It was created by the EU-funded SHAPE-ID project team, based at Trinity College Dublin and including Professor Catherine Lyall and Dr Isabel Fletcher of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science.

The project team sought to identify how researchers and experts from broadly different disciplines could best collaborate and work on society’s biggest challenges, including climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

A particular focus was placed on how to strengthen the integration of the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) in inter- and trans-disciplinary research with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and societal partners.

The toolkit was unveiled on Thursday 10 June 2021 at a virtual launch event, with more than 250 people in attendance from across Europe and beyond.

A human-centred approach to research

It includes a full suite of easily accessible features, including tailored resources designed to help individuals, research-performing organisations and funders to consider the most important issues when developing, designing, evaluating, funding or collaborating on an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary project. It also offers inspiration for researchers in the form of case studies and short interviews with experts.

The launch event was opened by Mr Harald Hartung, Head of Unit, Fair Societies & Cultural Heritage, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission, who said: “We need a human-centric approach to research and innovation. Technical solutions alone are not sufficient to create meaningful and lasting societal impacts. Integrating the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) leads to stronger societal impact, broader citizen engagement and a better future.”

Catherine Lyall, Professor of Science and Public Policy at SPS, said: "I am heartened to hear Harald Hartung say we must use the toolkit as a meaningful tool to aid interdisciplinary integration, with a focus on the role of the arts, humanities and social disciplines. The toolkit will be extremely useful as a tool for evaluators, for example, and universities will play a key role in embracing and leading on the use of the toolkit."

Principal investigator Professor Jane Ohlmeyer of Trinity College Dublin presented the project’s key findings at the launch event, outlining this toolkit as the first of its kind to focus on AHSS integration in Europe. She acknowledged the potential for this resource to “transform how we view collaborative research approaches, and their potential to unite researchers from diverse disciplines and strengthen the research which can be used by wider society, including policy makers, to address some of the great societal challenges we are facing.”

“If we want to put the human at the centre of technological progress, or develop solutions that consider culture, values, emotion, dignity, and imagination alongside technology, economics and scientific developments, we need to build capacity for it across the higher education and research innovation system.”

View and use the toolkit and resources

View the toolkit and access downloadable resources.

More about SHAPE-ID

SHAPE-ID (Shaping Inter-disciplinary research practices in Europe) is an EU-funded project based in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute and is a Europe-wide consortium coordinated by Trinity College Dublin and with partners ISINNOVA, ETH Zurich, the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, The Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, and Jack Spaapen.

SHAPE-ID has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 822705.

The SHAPE-ID project builds on the Creative Connections Interdisciplinary Research Workshop hosted in the Trinity Long Room Hub in 2016 and funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC).

Experts in research and education policy from across Europe contributed to the success of the launch event, including Dr Carthage Smith, Head of the OECD’s Global Science Forum, Dr Lidia Borrell-Damián, Secretary-General of Science Europe,  Professor Ludovic Thilly, Chair of the Coimbra Group, and Dr Anna Antonova, Director of Environmental Humanities Development at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich.