|Fall 2010||Volume 26, Number 1||Findings Magazine|
Collaboration's Many Branches
In the midst of Ann Arbor (a storied American "tree city") a vast and powerful interdisciplinary network, aimed at addressing the world's health problems, has taken root and is growing.
In many multidisciplinary collaborations, SPH researchers are tackling a wide variety of public health issues. Click on the different leaves in the diagram to see more information about the SPH collaborative efforts involving that unit.
Justly celebrated for its strength in interdisciplinary research and teaching, the University of Michigan is a model for colleges and universities throughout the world, says Marvin Parnes, associate vice president for research and executive director for research administration at UM. "For as long as I've been here in the Office of the Vice President for Research, we've recognized that many of the great challenges that we face are by their very nature interdisciplinary, and that if we're going to be in the forefront of research and the application of research, then we need to learn how to develop integrated approaches to both analyzing what's happening in the world and developing solutions and testing those solutions."
The university supports multidisciplinary work in a number of ways: including the provision of seed funds for interdisciplinary projects, regular meetings among research deans from the university's 19 schools and colleges, the creation of inter-unit teams to apply for outside research funding, an interdisciplinary seminar, a range of multidisciplinary research centers, programs to promote interdisciplinary faculty hiring, and cost- and revenue-sharing arrangements that promote (rather than discourage) collaborative work among units.
The School of Public Health is at the center of much of this activity, as this interactive feature shows. "By its very nature," says Parnes, "public health is inherently interdisciplinary, because it addresses the intersection of science, technology, and social behavior very broadly (including not just human behavior but social policy and other aspects of our political and sociological world that impact health)." Says Steve Forrest, UM vice president for research, "SPH is a campus leader in initiating collaborative solutions to complex problems."
SPH's Kenneth Warner adds that few universities have as many top-ten colleges and schools as Michigan does, which is another reason Michigan is a force to be reckoned with. The ability to collaborate on this campus, Warner says, is "pervasive and powerful."