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Peter Ashwin interview

As the deputy chair for the Bridging the Gaps project, Professor Peter Ashwin has been working on the project since its inception. We spoke recently about his involvement in the project and what he hopes other academics will get out of the experience.

How did you get involved?

“I was involved with the Swindon interview with EPSRC, where the application was formally reviewed and refined. We acquired the funding for Helen’s time and a pot for pump priming a multitude of projects with additional funding for flexible support for other projects.”

What’s your particle motivation for being involved?

“I have always had an interested in cross-disciplinary research, you see mathematics (his subject area) is about developing a language that is abstract and universal. In my time at Exeter I have worked with people from all manner of disciplines, biologists, engineers and a range of other disciplines. I want to widen the interest other academics have in cross-disciplinary research. I think the challenge to academics and institutions in the coming years, especially with the cuts to funds, is to find new areas of research to explores. New avenues. The first step is to break down the boundaries between disciplines to open up new research opportunities. To remove silo thinking.”

Silo thinking?

“There’s certainly a tendency across all disciplines to embrace one’s specialist area to the exclusion of other potential collaborative opportunities.”

Do you anticipate some resistance to the remit of Bridging the Gaps? What challenges are you expecting?

“I think the biggest challenge or the misunderstanding some will have is that this somehow signifies the end of discipline based research. Which simply isn’ t true, there will always be a need for subject specific research it is an ingrained part of the academic structure. The message we want people to take away from Bridging the Gaps is that there are a range of activities, come have a look even if it is just a passing interest, give it a go and you may be surprised by what you learn or discover.”

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