Bridging the Gaps (BTG) has received £600,000 funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to facilitate interdisciplinary research both between the sciences and between the sciences, social sciences and humanities. A Showcase of what BTG has achieved over the last three years was held on 25 September 2013.
Throughout its duration, BTG provided pump-priming funding for 68 development fund awards for interdisciplinary research projects, workshops and networks, and staged 80 events. Postdoctoral Researcher Dr George Littlejohn attended the event and has given us his thoughts…
One of the BTG’s remits was to create virtual environments in which researchers could collaborate -project leader Prof David Butler acknowledged in his opening comments that these projects, using environments like Elgg and Second Life had not been as popular as real-world events.
The final evaluation of BTG is now over. The success of 12 case study projects was discussed by Prof Mark Goodwin. They yielded 12 publications, 11 grant applications, three of which so far have been successful and 10 ongoing collaborations.
There were six presentations from BTG award holders. Prof Steve Brooks spoke about the Exeter Initiative for Statistics and its Applications (ExIStA) Network, an initiative which has brought together 350 individuals from universities, NHS, Met Office and business. ExIStA aims are to share skills and expertise, foster collaborations and promote the use of statistical models and good practice.
Dr Sarah Goldingay and Prof Paul Dieppe talked about the joint drama and University of Exeter Medical School project looking at the healing response and responses to pain. The project has led to a paper, grant proposals and interest from the BBC in their work. Their work also led to a movie entitled “Lourdes 2011 ”.
Bringing to Exeter to prominence in the study of fungal diseases of trees was highlighted by Dr David Studholme. He discussed a workshop on Phytophthora ramorum, which is devastating larch trees in the UK and cited the workshop as useful in preparing the ground for a successful £4million grant to work on ash dieback.
Prof Richard Everson holds the record for BTG awards, having been involved in 10 interdisciplinary projects. He gave some general lessons, observing that projects work best where the partners have equal shares and equal stakes in the success of the project rather than where one partner is providing a service to the others. He commented on the success of the networks established through BTG citing ExIStA and the Exeter Imaging Network.
Dr Karen Knapp spoke about the development of dance DVDs aimed at perimenopausal and postmenopausal women at risk of osteoporosis. A feasibility study has led to commercial interest and the possibility of extending the study.
Creativity is an important aspect of all academic endeavour and the Creative Systems Group described by Dr Robin Durie was arguably the most wide ranging of the projects presented at the showcase. It was set up to examine the phenomenon of creativity and included individuals working in maths, politics, law, synthetic biology, health and education.
I have been fortunate enough to have collaborated on several BTG projects and echo the sentiments expressed by several speakers and poster presenters that the support given by Project Manager Dr Helen Butler and Project Assistant Lois Spence was absolutely exemplary.
Bridging the Gaps has officially ended, but Profs Goodwin and Butler announced at the meeting that there would be two further BTG calls in the next year, and further internal support would be available.
The greater legacy of BTG was best summed up by Prof Richard Everson when he said that the indirect outputs of BTG, as much as the papers and grant applications were important and made the collegiate atmosphere he experienced walking around campus make it feel like a proper University.