Role of interdisciplinary mentoring between experts in cancer research networks


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Turku School of Economics and Western Finland Cancer Centre have jointly launched a two-year research project titled as Interdisciplinary mentoring in networked research collaboration. The two-year project is financed by the Finnish Work Environment Fund. The goal is to develop new ways how to coordinate expert networks in cancer research and to understand the effects and potential of interdisciplinary mentoring in the for highly specialized expert work.

Cancer prevention, diagnostics and treatment and the related cancer research involve in practice many experts from different fields. That requires long-term boundary-spanning cooperation between the fields. To support this, both national and regional cancer centers have been established in Finland in the last decade to support and coordinate the activities of expert networks.

Translational research that crosses disciplinary, organizational and professional boundaries is challenging, but it’s also a prerequisite for making new forms of treatment available to patients faster and with greater impact. The need for research networks is to be able to combine various aspects from both theory and practice in research and development, ultimately all the way to patient care.

- In parallel with the launched research project, a mentoring programme will be created for the Western Finland Cancer Centre to develop regionally research collaboration capabilities in the networks and at the individual level to facilitate learning at work and strengthen well-being at work, says research manager Anna Karhu.

A key aspect of the interdisciplinary mentoring program for cancer experts is that one of the pairs mentoring each other comes from clinical expertise and the other one from the basic research. The term interdisciplinary mentoring is used in the project specifically emphasizes the knowledge transfer from one field to another rather than the traditional mentoring usually done within a single field. 

The goal is to create an understanding on both sides of different job contents and to make tacit information visible across different fields. At the same time, opportunities are created for the development of research work practices and work cultures in different fields are made more familiar.

From the business studies perspective the project’s research aims to understand the potential of mentoring that integrates different fields of expertise, e.g. in transferring information between experts and in the what impacts could be seen in the collaborative culture of the research network.

- There are benefits from mentoring, especially through self-development, learning and by identification of new professional interest areas. Harnessing mentoring as a tool for diversifying the cooperation of experts in different fields is an interesting research setup. We are investigating what kind of potential applying mentoring has for developing organizations and how the effects are also reflected in the networks beyond the participants, says the project's principal investigator Anni Paalumäki.

From the Turku School of Economics, the project is carried out by the Management and Organization discipline, the Center for Collaborative Research CCR and the Pan-European Institute.

Created 25.01.2023 | Updated 25.01.2023