Connecting and building capacity in the transdisciplinary research community

By Josefa Kny and David P. M. Lam

authors_josefa-kny_david-lam
1. Josefa Kny (biography) (photograph by Leyla Hoppe)
2. David P. M. Lam (biography)

What does the transdisciplinary research community want when it comes to building a global and virtual community, as well as capacity?

In developing a new interactive online platform, we surveyed 122 transdisciplinary researchers, mostly from German-speaking countries, and ran an online workshop with 27 early career transdisciplinary researchers from 8 European countries to assess what they would find most effective.

The key needs identified in the survey were to:

  • receive and share information on community- and capacity- building activities
  • have opportunities to network and discuss within an online community
  • share their own research projects and experiences.

The early career transdisciplinary researchers wanted to:

  • connect and have quick exchanges with researchers investigating similar topics or using similar approaches
  • find mentors
  • find sparring partners with complementary skills and knowledge to challenge and improve their own approaches and perspectives towards conducting research
  • join online discussions and workshops on, for example, tools or good practices
  • share experiences and challenges in transdisciplinary research, including a ‘failure forum’
  • share information on capacity building and events
  • find useful connections and cooperation with other community building initiatives in the field.

From a technical perspective, the two groups of respondents asked for a platform with:

  • content that was relevant, practical and well-curated
  • intuitive usability
  • appealing layout, with high use of visuals.

The tdAcademy online platform

The tdAcademy online platform focuses on two activities to meet the identified needs:

  • a virtual gathering point for transdisciplinary researchers and research on transdisciplinarity, based on individual profiles and a collection of projects (tdCommunity).
  • capacity building opportunities (tdEvents).

The platform also provides information about four research foci central to advancing transdisciplinary research covering:

  • how research projects can be supported in terms of systematically reflecting on their societal effects and thereby increasing their potential effectiveness
  • the spectrum of possible effects that transdisciplinary research may generate within academia
  • how transdisciplinary approaches can be adapted in order to be able to transfer specific findings and facilitate multifaceted learning processes between cases in different contexts
  • innovative formats and methods for transdisciplinary approaches.

What would you find useful?

Do you share the needs identified by the transdisciplinary researchers we consulted? Do you have experiences to share about successful community development and capacity building through an online platform? We have multiple plans to expand aspects of the website – are there specific issues you would like to see covered?

To find out more:
tdAcademy. (Online): https://td-academy.org/ (German) and https://td-academy.org/en/home/ (English)

This research and platform will be presented at the 2021 International Transdisciplinarity Conference to be held online from September 13–17, 2021: (Online): https://akademien-schweiz.ch/en/current/events/itd-conference-2021/

Acknowledgements:
tdAcademy is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The founding partners are the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Leuphana University, the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) at the Technische Universität Berlin and the Oeko-Institut.

Biography: Josefa Kny PhD is a research associate and an online editor in the research project “tdAcademy – Platform for Transdisciplinary Research and Studies”. She works at the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. Her research interests include the societal effects of transdisciplinary research, transdisciplinary methods and concepts, and participatory methods in futures studies.

Biography: David P. M. Lam PhD is the Scientific Director of the research project “tdAcademy – Platform for Transdisciplinary Research and Studies”. He works at the Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany. His research focuses on (1) amplification processes to scale the impact of local initiatives that foster sustainability transformations, and (2) the role of different knowledge systems in transformative transdisciplinary research, such as the ones pertaining to indigenous peoples and local communities.

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