The issue of how to support interdisciplinary faculty members arose during a lunchtime chat with Tom Gieryn, a sociologist of science who is currently Assistant Provost for faculty and academic affairs at Indiana University. Interdisciplinary faculty may be doing wonderful work, but it does not necessarily get understood or appreciated by the traditional departments in which formally they are members. This led me to propose a variant on the scheme I developed many years ago for diversity hiring and spousal hiring.
The basic idea is to create a pool an institution-wide pool of “interdisciplinary innovation” (II) lines. The II line stays with the department only as long as the appointee does. The appointee goes through normal tenure and promotion decisions, free from the ill-feeling that comes from occupying a line that some people in the department thought might have gone to a candidate closer to the department’s traditional disciplinary profile.
Stay tuned to see if I.U. initates a system anything like this.