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An Interview With New LIDC Director Peter Mollinga

We are delighted to announce that Professor Peter Mollinga joined LIDC as interim Director in October 2016, seconded part-time from his position as Professor of Development Studies at SOAS. Here he talks about his academic interests, the importance of interdisciplinary research and the role of LIDC.

Can you tell us about your research background and academic interests?

My background is varied with an interdisciplinary identity. It started with irrigation and engineering and agriculture then moved towards social studies of technologies onto the political economies of agrarian change, social study of technology and analysis of the politics associated with these processes. I focused on water and irrigation agriculture to bring all these different fields together which has led to my research interest in the interdisciplinary study of water.

How do you see your role with LIDC?

I see myself as a caretaker for 8 months, fulfilling the roles and taking the decisions that the Director of LIDC should fulfill, and the main part of this is working with my team to ensure that LIDC is active in seeking GCRF funding around interdisciplinary research as the funding is a huge opportunity for collaborative development research and an acute focus this academic year.

My personal input will involve finding ways to profile interdisciplinarity as an intellectual project and developing reflective work on interdisciplinarity to increase LIDC’s profile as a knowledge hub.

Finally, I think LIDC to the outside world is often seen and being focused on the natural sciences and I would like to profile the social science and humanities dimensions of the Centre's’s work and take new initiatives in these areas and challenge this misconception. 

Why is interdisciplinary and collaborative research important?

Firstly, real world problems are complex and there are multiple causes at work in problems like poverty, migration, education access and climate change. Such pertinent problems have many mechanisms at work and automatically require multiple inputs, the problems cannot simply be reduced to fit in one discipline- they require an interdisciplinary approach.

Secondly, development problems are politically complex with many different interests and stakes involved associated with them and therefore there can be no identifiable ‘best’ solution as the problems are so politically entangled. Solutions need to be negotiated which requires collaborative research.

What do you see for the future of LIDC?

I certainly see a bright future for LIDC. Interdisciplinary research as a demand and need is here to stay and as complex world problems increase there is even more of an objective need for collaborative work which is reflected in research funding frameworks.

When I see the name ‘LIDC’ I think the ‘ID’ can be read two ways, as interdisciplinary or international development, and both are equally valid and pertinent and reflect the Centre's’s important role in facilitating the coming together of an interdisciplinary approach to development problems.

Why would you encourage people to get involved with LIDC?

LIDC is a platform for meeting like-minded people interested in interdisciplinarity. It gives people a space to feel comfortable going out of their research ‘comfort zones’ and allows them to freely express interest and curiosity in other fields and disciplines, making the process easy and translating interdisciplinary ideas into new research and debate.

When I think of the work done here I am reminded of a book by Becher and Trowler called ‘Academic Tribes and Territories’ talking about the separation of disciplines in academia. Facilitation is key to crossing disciplinary boundaries and LIDC exists to help people collaborate across disciplines.