Gell, L., McLeod, J., Holmes, J., Everson-Hock, E., Bühringer, G., Lingford-Hughes, A., Neumann, M., Meier, P.Reflections and best practice recommendations for interdisciplinary working: a case study on the identification of the determinants of addiction from the Addiction and Lifestyles In Contemporary Europe Reframing Addictions Project (ALICE RAP)
The Lancet, 384
Studies on the determinants of the development of substance use disorders are done across the natural and social sciences. However, research is usually conducted by individual or closely related disciplines, so evidence on how determinants from multiple disciplines interact has been slow to emerge. Within the Addiction and Lifestyles In Contemporary Europe Reframing Addictions Project (ALICE RAP) we have brought together experts from 11 disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and medical sciences to identify the determinants of risky and harmful substance use and gambling. The aim of the present research was to explore ALICE RAP members' experiences of working with experts from diverse disciplines and to make recommendations for best practice in such projects.
All members of the interdisciplinary team (n=18) were invited to participate in an in-depth interview in early 2014. The aims were to explore the experience of working in an interdisciplinary manner; to identify perceived strengths and weaknesses in our approach; and to provide recommendations for future interdisciplinary collaborations. 14 experts representing ten disciplines participated. Data were analysed thematically, and recommendations were derived from suggestions made by participants and discussion among the authors on the implications of the findings. Ethics approval for this study was granted by the ScHARR Research Ethics Review Committee at the University of Sheffield in December, 2013.
Participants described five strengths of our approach: inclusiveness, generosity and openness of experts, flexibility, diverse forms of interaction, and the value of a dedicated facilitator or facilitators. However, the widespread view was that we had underestimated the challenge of interdisciplinary working. Specific concerns were diverse approaches to scientific evidence, differing expectations of discipline experts, ambiguity of some disciplines' roles, conflicting commitments, and a vague project endpoint. We have identified four recommendations for interdisciplinary working: to have a blueprint for the integration of disciplines, to be clear about expectations, to ensure resilient project staffing, and to talk frequently to maintain relationships and progress work.
Interdisciplinary work is challenging; however, our recommendations for interdisciplinary collaborations, identified through expert interviews, could be used to facilitate the successful planning and management of interdisciplinary work in the specialty of substance use disorders and beyond.