The Big Five at the Recent 4th European Conference

Five big challenges for large, interdisciplinary projects came to the fore in the course of a special panel at the European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency on the 9th of September 2016 in Portugal. The panel gathered scholars who are building platforms for the study of household energy practices, including Anne Beaulieu from Energysense. Each participant formulated the top challenge they are facing.




To be tackled:

  1. Different areas of knowledge speak different languages. Because of these barriers, getting a sense of other areas requires a big investment in time to learn and build relationships.
  2. The lack of incentives for interdisciplinary work and the face that publishing across different cultures gives rise to all kinds of issues around intellectual property.
  3. Overcoming the fear of being incompetent and dealing with the fact of being afraid that you don’t know, that you’re not the expert in the room, and sometimes not valuing your own expertise and not feeling competent.
  4. setting out a vision that will convince researchers to see interdisciplinary projects as an opportunity, as a whole greater than the sum of its parts, rather than as an upscaling of business as usual, a bigger version of what they are already doing.
  5. The sense of responsibility for team members who have invested so much in the line of work, and the feeling of being responsible for their academic future and prolonging their employment in a difficult funding climate.

Succesfully addressing these challenges over the years also meant that the participants in the panel also had tips for those wanting to tackle them:

  • Always keep your eye on the goal: it’s not going to be easy to push the boundaries and do things differently
  • Whiteboards: thinking and talking together are essential to success
  • Choose collaborators wisely: go for people who have the humility and openness to collaborate—these are not necessarily the top scientists in the field.
  • Bring a designer on board: designers are trained to elicit meanings, to shape and create in relation to context, so they can have a crucial role in bridging gaps between collaborators.
  • Make sure there is helicopter: at least one person has to have the overall vision of what is going on in the project, across the diversity of activities and outcomes.



Energysense is one of the flagship facilities of the Energy Academy Europe. It is being developed by University of Groningen (RUG) and led by Dr.Anne Beaulieu, programme manager.

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