Investigating the practices of research

Summary of the Workshop „Interdisciplinary Research in the Social Sciences”

Authors: Elaheh Mohammadi, Thomas König

How do social scientists do research? What benefits can they draw from interdisciplinary approaches, and which pitfalls are to be avoided? What’s the role of creativity in social scientific research? Approximately 30 MA students from the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, took the opportunity for a unique exchange with experienced social scientists from the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS).

The format was simple: in two rounds, a total of six projects based at IHS were presented by their respective principal investigators in brief succession. The range of projects gave impressive testament to the research capacity that the institute represents: from the scientific coordination of the Austrian Socio-Economic Panel (ASEP) (Monika Mühlböck) to the GigClean project by Laura Wiesböck; from Understanding the Role of Diversity in European Research (URDER) by Elaheh Mohammadi to the causes of Science Scepticism (Thomas König on behalf of Johannes Starkbaum who was unfortunately indisposed); from investigating Social Scientific Elites (Andreas Huber) to the creation of a Virtual Skills Lab, presented by Elisabeth Frankus.

If the goal was to relay a better understanding of the peculiarities of research in the social sciences, and the relevance of interdisciplinary cooperation, the workshop was a great success. After the presentations, the students had the rare opportunity to get directly in contact with the researchers. And with their diverse backgrounds and their training in Cross-Disciplinary Strategy, they peppered the PIs with questions on the conceptual grounding, on methods, findings, and on the social and policy impact of their respective project. It was intense – and it was fun.

To the students, the workshop provided first-hand experience of doing research in the social science, which, more often than not, is interdisciplinary – at least at IHS. To the researchers from IHS, the exposure to curious, aspiring students asking elaborate and stimulating questions had them reflect on the fundamentals of their daily work routine: developing research strategies, as well as the opportunities and constraints stemming from the project format in research. Alas, it was four enjoyable hours of meaningful encounters for both the attendees and the presenters and discussants.