Is it legitimate for transdisciplinary research to set out to change society?

By Antonietta Di Giulio and Rico Defila An unspoken and unchallenged assumption underpinning much discourse about transdisciplinary research is that it must change society. The assumption goes beyond whether research should contribute to change, or whether research impacts developments in society, or whether research should investigate societal problems and provide solutions, or anything similar – …

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Scaffolding transdisciplinary contributions

By Roderick Lawrence What do we mean by “scaffolding” and how is it used in transdisciplinary research? Scaffolding is a metaphor transferred from building construction and used in pedagogy and teaching methods since the 1970s to assist learning processes. This metaphor has also been applied to multi-stakeholder processes that require collective decision making about complex …

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Material resources for transdisciplinary research

By Chris Riedy What materials are needed to support the conduct of transdisciplinary research? Transdisciplinary research is a bundle of interwoven social practices taking different forms in different contexts. As highlighted in one prominent version of social practice theory (Shove et al., 2012: 14), social practice has three elements: Materials – ‘including things, technologies, tangible …

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Designing for impact in transdisciplinary research

By Cynthia Mitchell, Dena Fam and Dana Cordell Starting with richly articulated pictures of where we would like to be at some defined point in the future has powerful consequences for any human endeavour. How can we use such “Outcome Spaces” to guide the conception, design, implementation, and evaluation of transdisciplinary research? Our Outcome Spaces …

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Doing a transdisciplinary PhD? Four tips to convince the examiners about your data

By Jane Palmer, Dena Fam, Tanzi Smith and Jenny Kent How can research writing best be crafted to present transdisciplinarity? How can doctoral candidates effectively communicate to examiners a clear understanding of ‘data’, what it is and how the thesis uses it convincingly? The authors have all recently completed transdisciplinary doctorates in the field of …

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Transkillery! What skills are needed to be a boundary crosser?

By Dena Fam, Tanzi Smith and Dana Cordell What skills and dispositions are required by researchers and practitioners in transdisciplinary research and practice in crossing boundaries, sectors and paradigms? The insights here come from interviews with 14 internationally recognized transdisciplinary researchers and practitioners, chosen from a diverse range of research and practice-based perspectives. Here we …

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Three tasks for transdisciplinary bridge builders

By Roderick J. Lawrence Human groups and societies have built many kinds of bridges for centuries. Since the 19th century, engineers have designed complex physical structures that were intended to serve one or more purposes in precise situations. In essence, the construction of a bridge is meant to join two places together. What may appear …

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Storytelling ethnography as a way of doing transdisciplinary research

By Jane Palmer Storytelling ethnography is a valuable tool if your research traverses several disciplines and aims for insights that transcend all of them. Stories not only integrate knowledge from diverse disciplines, but can also “change the way people act, the way they use available knowledge” (Griffiths 2007). The special qualities of transdisciplinarity are: its …

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Intentional ecology: Building values, advocacy and action into transdisciplinary environmental research

By Alexandra Knight and Catherine Allan As a society, how do we encourage early and ethical action when building our knowledge and confronting serious challenges? In this blog post we explore the conceptual framework of intentional ecology and apply it to a case study to illustrate how it deals with the question raised above. Intentional …

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Strengthening the ecosystem for effective team science: A case study from University of California, Irvine, USA

By Dan Stokols, Judith S. Olson, Maritza Salazar and Gary M. Olson How can an ecosystem approach help in understanding and improving team science? How can this work in practice? An Ecosystem Approach Collaborations among scholars from different fields and their community partners are embedded in a multi-layered ecosystem ranging from micro to macro scales, …

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Embracing tension for energy and creativity in interdisciplinary research

By Liz Clarke and Rebecca Freeth Tensions inevitably arise in inter- and transdisciplinary research. Dealing with these tensions and resulting conflicts is one of the hardest things to do. We are meant to avoid or get rid of conflict and tension, right? Wrong! Tension and conflict are not only inevitable; they can be a source …

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From integration to interaction: A knowledge ecology framework

By Zoë Sofoulis Would a focus on ‘knowledge ecology’ provide a useful alternative to ‘knowledge integration’ in inter- and trans-disciplinary research? My experience in bringing perspectives from the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) to projects led by researchers from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has led me to agree with Sharp and colleagues …

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