The Congressional Office of Science and Technology Policy should expand interdisciplinary higher education learning.
Approximately 75 percent of college students would prefer an interdisciplinary education, and such training is also needed for workforce skills. There are a number of steps that should be taken to expand interdisciplinary learning. Congress should expand the NSF IGERT Program by a factor of three, to $30 million in annual funding. Where allowed by law, federal agencies should redefine all federally-funded scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and traineeships such that professors receiving students supported by such mechanisms must include some kind of interdisciplinary training experience for the student. Alternatively, OSTP can coordinate a multiagency effort to divorce student support from faculty research support. Faculty would apply for research grants as before, but when the grant arrives at the university, it arrives in two parts: a student support portion (tuition and stipend) that is awarded to a student and henceforth travels with the student; and a research support portion (professor salaries, equipment funds, materials, etc.) that stays with the professor. This approach frees students to pursue their own educational interests – which tend to be much more highly interdisciplinary than the narrow in-field research needs of the professor.