From Sustainable Fashion to Aging Populations: How Global Challenges are Transforming Research

As researchers take on problems that cut across many different fields and geographies, academic research is becoming more multidisciplinary in nature.

As researchers take on problems that cut across many different fields and geographies, academic research is becoming more multidisciplinary in nature. This trend is driving the need for comprehensive research databases that span multiple disciplines – and ProQuest is meeting this need with a revolutionary new product, ProQuest One Academic, that gives researchers a single destination for all of their information needs.

Solving large, complex challenges requires collaboration among researchers who work in a variety of areas, says Brie Betz, director of product management for ProQuest. And this collaboration, in turn, requires a deeper understanding of how one’s own field intersects with others throughout the topic in question.

For example, as the average age of populations continues to rise, questions about how to cater to aging citizens and what this means for society touch upon a wide range of academic disciplines – such as public health, economics, political science, ecology, genetics, and urban planning.

Or take an issue like sustainable fashion, Betz says: “People want to demonstrate their identity, and so they align themselves with certain brands and styles. But the fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to global pollution. How can we change this? In tackling the problem, you can start anywhere, but you need to have a good multidisciplinary understanding of what the technological impacts are, what the environmental impacts are, and how public policy fits in. If clothing is a key export, are you going to be able to convince the government that practices need to change?”

Researchers who are studying complex global challenges need a solid understanding of how various issues are intertwined. 

“If you’re only looking at the issue through an economist’s perspective or an ecologist’s perspective, you’re going to miss out on key parts of the story,” Betz observes. “Unless you understand all of the different facets and how they work together, your solution won’t be as effective.”

A ‘Game-Changing’ Approach to Research

Historically, most research has been done within subject-specific databases. If researchers are working on a cross-disciplinary problem, “they will often go from database to database and run similar searches,” Betz says. 

Not only is this process time-consuming, but researchers often run into problems because of the differences in terminology from one department to another. “The chemistry department might refer to something in a different way than the math department refers to it,” she explains.

By pulling together research from a wide range of disciplines and indexing it within a single database, “researchers can surface information that previously was isolated because they might not have understood what language a certain discipline was using in their articles about the topic.”

This is what ProQuest has done with the new ProQuest One Academic solution, which combines four leading multidisciplinary databases within a single platform. ProQuest One Academic brings together more than 250 years of authoritative, curated content across every discipline and format, giving students, faculty, and other researchers a single place to search for a full range of content. 

“Getting that holistic view is really a game changer,” Betz says. “Before, it would have taken many different types of searches and a lot of time to piece together what we can now provide with a single set of search results.”

Multidisciplinary Problem-Solving

This unique search tool comes at a critical time in academia. To help students understand how problems cut across multiple academic disciplines, a growing number of colleges and universities are creating courses, tracts, and research projects that take a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving. 

Working as part of an interdisciplinary research team to help solve open-ended challenges prepares students more effectively for the workforce, Betz says, where collaborative problem solving is a valued skill in any field.

“There is a lot of pressure from policymakers and funding agencies to show the return on investment in education,” she says. “Taking on cross-disciplinary research projects exposes students to multiple disciplines and helps make them career-ready. Students are graduating ready to work collaboratively on complex problems because they have looked at solving a problem that is not prescriptive and does not have a simple right-or-wrong answer.”

Giving students and faculty the ability to search for information across multiple fields at the same time with a tool such as ProQuest One Academic is an important step in supporting this kind of interdisciplinary research. 

“It helps students develop the skills to solve complex problems,” Betz concludes, “and it gives them the ability to change the world.”

Ready to explore the industry’s most complete destination for multidisciplinary research?

Schedule a demo of ProQuest One Academic by calling 1-800-779-0493 or email

Get more information or register for the webcast today.

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