By The Aeschiried Integrators
Integration experts and expertise are crucial for realising the full potential of inter- and transdisciplinary research. However, the expertise of those who lead integration is poorly recognized in the current academic system and these academics often experience a range of impediments to their careers. What can be done to recognise integration experts and expertise and to support the careers of such experts?
We define integration experts as specialists “who lead, administer, manage, monitor, assess, accompany, and/or advise others on integration” in order to achieve the full potential of inter- and transdisciplinary research (Hoffmann et al. 2022).
This i2Insights contribution presents the results of a pilot workshop held in Aeschiried, a mountain village in Switzerland, in February 2023 to develop a theory of change focused on Germany and Switzerland to achieve the following:
By 2033, diverse research institutes/universities in Germany and Switzerland have established integration experts as recognized academic positions in their structures and created a durable environment, in which integration experts thrive in order to jointly address wicked problems with their disciplinary colleagues in a systemic and ‘co-productive’ way.
We identified seven pathways to inform and support such desired long-term change, summarized and visualized in the figure below. We looked at short-, medium-, and long-term changes (the boxes in the figure). In brief, the pathways (with short- and long-term changes described) are:
- Enabling positive experience
By 2025, disciplinary colleagues recognize the (intellectual) contributions of integration experts to inter- and transdisciplinarity and integrate integration experts in their teams.
By 2032, there is a thriving environment where disciplinary colleagues and integration experts co-exist in a constructive way and complement each other to jointly address wicked problems.
- Establishing evaluation criteria
By 2025, integration experts make their (intellectual) contributions to inter- and trans-disciplinarity visible within their institute/university and beyond.
By 2032, selection committees assess integration experts based on evaluation and promotion criteria aligned to inter- and transdisciplinarity.
- Opening up positions/careers
By 2025, directors of research institutes/presidents of universities know about integration experts and recognize their added value for inter- and transdisciplinarity.
By 2032, directors of research institutes/presidents of universities establish a critical mass of permanent integration expert positions in their institutes/universities.
- Promoting paradigm shift
By 2025, integration experts articulate their diverse roles, functions, and expertise along a typology of different integration expert profiles.
By 2032, directors of research institutes/presidents of universities have to justify if they do not have established a critical mass of permanent integration expert positions in their institutes/universities.
- Providing financial resources
By 2025, funders include budgets for integration in inter- and transdisciplinary research proposals (integration expert positions and interaction formats).
By 2032, funders reserve one third of funding for inter- and transdisciplinary research to address wicked problems.
- Nurturing Communities of Practice
By 2025, integration experts self-organize and establish Communities of Practice within their research institutes/universities to ensure peer-to-peer exchange and mutual learning.
By 2032, single research institutes/universities create an environment for integration experts (and their disciplinary colleagues) to thrive and contribute to effectively address wicked problems.
- Enabling teaching/learning
By 2025, higher education institutions offer cross-departmental lectures and seminars to train students, PhDs and postdocs on inter- and transdisciplinary integration.
By 2032, higher education institutions have established integrative inter- and transdisciplinary study programs/majors by offering specialization and/or minors on inter- and transdisciplinary integration coupled with empirical cases.
Based on the seven pathways, we then identified specific interventions, ie., sets of deliberative activities to induce change in the academic system (the ovals in the figure). These were prioritized into high, medium, and low priority. We identified three interventions as critical to start working on:
Developing and discussing theories of change to institutionalise Integration Experts and Expertise in different national or regional contexts: This entails defining a joint vision, identifying long-, medium-, and short-term changes, prioritizing context-specific interventions tailored to specific actor groups (eg., funders, directors of research institutes, presidents of universities, disciplinary colleagues, etc.), and continuously reflecting upon and learning from the induced change processes on national and regional levels but also in exchange across different academic systems.
Establishing a typology of Integration Experts and Expertise: This involves systematizing the diversity of existing profiles, including cousin roles (eg., Third Space Professionals, Research Development Professionals, Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S) Specialists, Interdisciplinary Executive Scientists, Boundary Spanners, Knowledge Brokers, and Inter- and Transdisciplinary Project or Program Administrators, Managers or Coordinators), identifying commonalities and differences between them, and exploring challenges and opportunities associated with diverse profiles and their implementation and institutionalisation in differently structured institutes and universities.
Exchanging on teaching and learning formats for inter- and transdisciplinary integration: This comprises identifying suitable formats to further develop and strengthen expertise, including contributory expertise, interactional expertise, and referred expertise through exchange across different scientific communities (including the Science of Team Science, Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S), Science and Technology Studies communities).
What do you think? Do you identify as an integration expert? If so, do the interventions we suggest resonate with you? Would you prioritise other or different interventions?
Would you like to be involved? If so, join the Global Inter- and Transdisciplinary Alliance (ITD Alliance) Working Group on ‘Integration Experts and Expertise’.
Hoffmann, S., Deutsch, L., Klein, J. T. and O’Rourke, M. (2022). Integrate the integrators! A call for establishing academic careers for integration experts. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 9, 147. (Online – open access) (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-022-01138-z
Open the combined image of all the authors (JPEG 167KB).
Top row (left to right): Sabine Hoffmann, Lisa Deutsch
Second row (left to right): Benjamin Hofmann. Hanna Salomon, Christian Pohl
Third row (left to right): Alexandra Lux, Emilia Nagy, Silke Kleihauer
Last row (left to right): Sebastian Rogga, Jana Zscheischler
Biography: Sabine Hoffmann PhD is group leader of inter- and transdisciplinary research at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Duebendorf, Switzerland. Her research focuses on integration and integrative leadership in large inter- and transdisciplinary research programs. She co-leads the ITD Alliance (Global Inter- and Transdisciplinary Alliance) Working Group on Integration Experts and Expertise.
Biography: Lisa Deutsch is currently conducting a PhD on integrative leadership and framework conditions for inter- and transdisciplinary integration at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Duebendorf, and ETH Zurich, both in Switzerland.
Biography: Benjamin Hofmann PhD is a postdoctoral researcher in environmental social sciences at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Duebendorf, Switzerland. He conducts interdisciplinary research on the use of science for sustainable policy and practice, currently with a focus on pesticide pollution.
Biography: Hanna Salomon studies environmental science at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. She is currently writing her master’s thesis on researchers’ roles and perceptions of integration in an inter- and transdisciplinary research project at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Duebendorf, Switzerland.
Biography: Christian Pohl PhD is co-director of the Transdisciplinarity Lab of the Department of Environmental Systems Science (USYS TdLab) at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. His research and teaching interest is the theory and the practice of transdisciplinary research as a means for achieving sustainable development. He co-leads the ITD Alliance (Global Inter- and Transdisciplinary Alliance) Working Group on Integration Experts and Expertise.
Biography: Alexandra Lux PhD is head of the unit “Knowledge processes and transformations” at the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) and member of its Executive Committee, located in Frankfurt, Germany. She is interested in research on integration concepts and methods in transdisciplinary research processes.
Biography: Emilia Nagy researches on transdisciplinarity at the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) at the Technische Universität Berlin in Germany. Her focus is on increasing the societal effects of transdisciplinary sustainability research.
Biography: Silke Kleihauer PhD is head of the Innovation and Transformation Platform for Sustainable Development (itp:ne) at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences in Germany. Her research focuses on the design of change processes in the context of modes of production and consumption, systems mobility and climate-friendly energy networks.
Biography: Sebastian Rogga MA is a project manager at the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) in Müncheberg, Germany. His interests are in transformative science, team science and science-society interfaces.
Biography: Jana Zscheischler PhD is assistant professor for Geography at the University of Vechta, Germany. She is especially interested in methods of transdisciplinary and transformative sustainability research.