COMMON GROUND - Mobilising interdisciplinary collaborations for infectious disease research

Edinburgh Infectious Diseases and the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities are co-hosting a series of three  "Common Ground" workshops over the 2015-16 academic year. 

The aim of these workshops is to foster new interdisciplinary research teams from across the whole University - from humanities and social science, to basic and clinical science - which will address questions focussed on infectious diseases. 

  • Next workshop:  Tuesday 10 May 2016
  • Tiime:  3 - 5 pm
  • Location:  Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
  • Pitching your ideas - please register here
  • Speakers
    • Dr Rosalind Allen - School of Physics and Astronomy
    • Dr Alex Nading - School of Social and Political Science
    • Prof Jürgen Schwarze - Centre for Inflammation Research

These workshops are an opportunity to meet infectious disease researchers, to identify shared research interests and questions, and to develop a research proposal in an interdisciplinary team, with a focus on generating high quality proposals for grants such as the Wellcome Collaborative Awards.

Researchers from across the University with an interest in infectious diseases and health systems are invited to attend. The workshop programme is open to salaried staff whose contract includes research. This does not include doctoral research students but includes contract research staff as long as their line manager has agreed to their participation.

Common Ground Workshop 3: Pitching your ideas

This workshop will provide the opportunity for researchers to explore the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration in relation to specific research problems. Infectious disease researchers from across the university will be invited to pitch for interdisciplinary collaborators. Short presentations on specific research projects will be followed by questions and discussion to explore the potential for input to those research programmes from other disciplines.

The workshop is intended to facilitate open discussion about the possibilities and limitations of interdisciplinary infectious disease research, and to enable Edinburgh Infectious Diseases researchers to share and communicate their research with one another in an informal environment. We hope the ideas pitch will help to fertilise new collaborations, which we will seek to support through future workshops.

If you would like to pitch an idea at this workshop, please contact

Common Ground Workshop 2: Identifying Problems

Prior to the second workshop participants will be invited to join one of four or five thematic research teams that will have been developed on the basis of feedback from the first workshop. Facilitators for each thematic team will guide discussion and run a series of brainstorming activities.

  • Date:  Wednesday 3 February 2016

Common Ground Workshop 1: The Idea Exchange

The first workshop will begin with a showcase of current interdisciplinary research on infectious diseases from across the University.  Participants will then be invited to share an image or object related to their current or future research interests. This will be followed by the opportunity for participants to join one-to-one conversations with those researchers whose object relates to their potential research interests.


Participants will be asked to complete a two-minute survey before departure, which will identify potential collaborators and synergies, and will be used to identify four research themes for the follow-up team-building workshop.

  • Date:  Thursday 26 November 2015


        Why we need to farm, sow and plough the common ground

        There is a growing recognition from research funders that the global challenges presented by infectious diseases demand interdisciplinary collaboration between the biological and physical sciences and researchers from the humanities and social science. Whether in addressing emerging zoonotic diseases, the global rise of anti-microbial resistance, the lack of effective diagnostic devices for hard to reach populations, growing co-morbidity and interactions between communicable and non-communicable diseases, or the urban spread of respiratory disease, it is widely accepted that the most effective medical, scientific and technical solutions will come from research that situates infectious disease in real world social, historical and cultural relations. The valuable potential of interdisciplinary collaboration is highlighted, for example, by the Wellcome Collaborative Awards, launched in 2014, and cross-funding council initiatives such as the MRC/Wellcome/DFID/ESRC Health Systems Research Initiative and the Cross-Council initiative to tackle AMR.

        The University of Edinburgh is in a unique position to mobilise cutting edge, problem-focused, interdisciplinary research on infectious diseases. With its established Edinburgh Infectious Diseases Network, a newly invigorated Medical Humanities Network, and leading researchers in infectious disease represented across all three colleges, the time is ripe for exploring potential overlaps and synergies, and generating shared research goals. This is the work of forming, sowing, and ploughing common ground.

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