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Secrets for Success in Interdisciplinary Robotics Research - Workshop Proposal

Interdisciplinary research in robotics typically falls into one of two approaches. The first involves drawing upon concepts, methodologies and data in other disciplines such as neuroscience or animal locomotion in order to make breakthroughs in robotics. For example, there has been a recent resurgence in using computational models of animal brains to create highly functional robot systems. The second category consists of utilizing robotic technologies to make advances in other fields such as biology by performing experiments that cannot be performed directly on animals, or by enabling previously infeasible experiments to be run with the use of robotic technology. In this case, the primary outcomes are usually in the secondary field rather than in robotics, although there may be some incidental robotic technology advances as a result. It is quite rare for interdisciplinary robotics research to yield significant advances in all the disciplines involved. This workshop will bring together robotics researchers who draw on other disciplines for inspiration and researchers in other fields who look towards robotics to enable advances in their own field. In this environment of innovative, interdisciplinary thinkers we will discuss the methodologies, benefits and pitfalls of interdisciplinary approaches to robotics. The broad scope of the workshop is intentional, in that it will bring together researchers with a common overall goal that would not normally have the chance to interact.

Location: TBA. 2012.


Dr Michael Milford
School of Engineering Systems, Queensland University of Technology, 2 George St, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia.

Associate Professor Jeffrey Krichmar
Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California.

Professor Gordon Wyeth
School of Engineering Systems, Queensland University of Technology, 2 George St, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia.

Proposal Submission

Prospective speakers should send a detailed abstract for their proposed presentation, of up to 200 words. Abstracts should focus on conforming to the guidelines listed below. Please send abstracts to michael.milford AT (replace "AT" with "@" symbol) by September 30th. Expressions of interest in talking at and/or attending the workshop are welcome at any time, although by September 15th 2011 would be most useful.

Presentation Format

Each presenter will be allocated a 30 minute slot, including question time. Generous break durations have also been allocated to facilitate further discussion. Presentations, beyond showcasing research, are expected to contribute significantly to providing insight, perspectives and tips for conducting interdisciplinary robotics research. Presentation selection will be weighted towards proposals that address these aims. Talks should be pitched at an audience with a general understanding of robotics, but who will probably know relatively little about the other disciplines in which you are conducting research.

List of Topics

Discipline-specific Topics

  • Brain-based robotics - producing functional robots powered by computational models of animal and human brains. Computational neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, psychology, learning and adaptation.
  • Bio-mimetic robotics - emulating natural systems to create better robots. Flying robots, locomotion, navigation, optical flow, behavior-based robotics, animal navigation, swarm-based robotics, network robotics, micro / nano-robotics.
  • Social robotics and human-interaction - requires a broad understanding of cognitive, physical, emotional and other issues to be successful.
  • Computer vision and robotics - computer vision and robotics research fields have been closely linked for decades. These fields are an example of interdisciplinary research between two relatively similar fields. How do the two disciplines benefit from each other? How does work in this area contrast with interdisciplinary research with highly dissimilar fields, such as neuroscience-based robotics?
  • Any other interdisciplinary research topics involving robotics.

Workshop Discussion Topics

  • What are the challenges and benefits of closing the loop between robotics and other disciplines?
  • Performance indicators in interdisciplinary robotics - how to account for and reward success when conducting interdisciplinary research?
  • How to produce significant research outcomes in multiple disciplines, and how to avoid research outcomes which "aren't quite good enough" in any one of the fields.
  • The role of undergraduate education in enabling interdisciplinary robotics research. A lack of interdisciplinary undergraduate training means most PhD students learn "on the fly".
  • Keeping your academic career on track while "going out on a limb" to conduct interdisciplinary research.




8:45 - 9:15

Coffee, poster setup

9:15 - 9:30

Welcome and introduction

9:30 - 10:30

Drawing on other disciplines to advance robotics research

10:30 - 11:00

Morning tea and coffee

11:00 - 12:30

Drawing on other disciplines to advance robotics research

12:30 - 1:30

Lunch and discussion

1:30 - 3:30

Using robots to advance other fields

3:30 - 4:00

Afternoon tea and lunch

4:00 - 5:00

Discussion forum

5:00 - late

Drinks, dinner, discussion, networking

List of Presenters

Submissions currently open (see above).


At this stage we are investigating the possibility of either a collaborative review paper by willing workshop attendees, or possibly a journal special issue.

Definitions - Interdisciplinary versus Multidisciplinary

From Wikipedia:

Multidisciplinarity is a non-integrative mixture of disciplines in that each discipline retains its methodologies and assumptions without change or development from other disciplines within the multidisciplinary relationship.

An interdisciplinary field is a field of study that crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions have emerged.