Interdisciplinary at its heart


An introductory blog by Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh

I am thrilled that I will be working as a Co-director for the new Binks Hub.  Our aim is to bring together community stakeholders and academics from across different disciplines to find innovative solutions to the problems that matter most to people.  We want to do this research in a collaborative way; coproducing the questions, the methods and the dissemination processes in order to make the process meaningful for those involved and maximise impact.  We believe that using participatory, arts engaged methods will help us to do this work but we are keen to explore how different stakeholders inside and outside the University understand and engage in these approaches and to investigate which methods work best and why.  In this blog I want to say a bit about my particular interest in interdisciplinary and participatory arts engaged research methods.

As a social work practitioner and academic I have always worked across disciplines.  This is one of the wonderful and challenging things about social work, we draw on knowledge across the social sciences and beyond but this can make our subject hard to tie down.  For example, we might turn to psychological theories such as attachment and child development to help us understand the needs of an individual child, while also drawing on sociological theories of poverty and inequality to help us make sense of how the wider context shapes outcomes and opportunities.  In our interventions we might use art or music from the humanities to communicate with a child and build a relationships or more structured questions and exercises drawn from counselling studies.

In recent years there has been more and more discussion about the synergies that can flow from interdisciplinary work, with many of the research councils redoubling their efforts to encourage collaboration across the disciplines.  Julie Klein (1990: 196), an important pioneer in the study of interdisciplinary, defines interdisciplinarity as ‘a means of solving problems and answering questions that cannot be satisfactorily addressed using single methods or approaches’.  More recently Barry and Born (2013) have argued that notions of interdisciplinary must go beyond the academy to include other forms of knowledge and expertise from communities, including geographical communities, communities of interest and marginalised groups.

At the Binks Hub we aim to celebrate interdisciplinary in its many guises and create a space where academics and community members can come together and share knowledge as equal partners.  As a Co-director for the Hub I bring previous experience of working in this way with social workers and those they work with.  I am looking forward to having the space to embed co-production more deeply into my research and work will colleagues, students and community members to develop innovations.  You can read more about some of my previous research on my SPS webpage.

As a social worker I will also bring to the Binks Hub a commitment to the underpinning values of my profession which include respect for people and their human rights and a commitment to social justice.  In my research I have often chosen participatory methods as they align well with these values and my preferred way of working in partnership with people.  However, sharing power with participants is not easy and there are many questions about what works best in this type of research and how we can ensure quality and reliability in these research processes.  The Binks Hub will be exploring these and other questions in our search to develop innovations in teaching and research.

I am looking forward to connecting across many contexts and hope that you will get in touch if you have an interest in the work of the hub.  You can email me at: or follow me on Twitter @DrARoeschMarsh.


Interdisciplinarity is a means of solving problems and answering questions that cannot be satisfactorily addressed using single methods or approaches.(Klein 1990: 196)


The Binks Hub will work with communities to co-produce a programme of research and knowledge exchange that promotes social justice, relational research methods and human flourishing.

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