What might make us stop and think differently about the ways in which we interact with our environment and others, human and nonhuman? What kind of knowing about acute threats to the natural environment will sufficiently motivate action?
We suggest that art and literature can offer us a pause in which we might, firstly, imagine other less anthropocentric ways of being in the world, and secondly, a way into Basarab Nicolescu’s “zone of non-resistance” (2014, p. 192), where we become truly open to new transdisciplinary forms of collaboration.
What are the reasons for resistance to transdisciplinary research and education? And what insights can Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist party in the early 20th Century, offer?
We argue that one of the main reasons for resistance is that transdisciplinarity subverts well-established and often unquestioned structures, practices and values in academia. In particular, transdisciplinarity challenges persistent organizational structures, mechanisms of knowledge production and evaluation criteria based on disciplinary models of research and higher education.
By Dena Fam, Julie Thompson Klein, Sabine Hoffmann, Cynthia Mitchell and Christian Pohl
The concept of integration is widely regarded as the crux of transdisciplinary research, education, and practice. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or methodology. Projects and programs vary in purpose, scale and scope, problem focus, research question, mix of expertise, degree of coordination and communication, timing, and responsibility for integration. Based on findings in a study of integration we conducted (Pohl et al., 2021), we address four common questions to provide insights into transdisciplinary integration as a multidimensional interactive process.
1. Does integration require coming to consensus on a contested issue?
Not necessarily. Agreement on a final single understanding or solution is only one kind of integration.
Other kinds do not require agreement or consensus. Instead, they allow perspectives reflecting different ways of knowing related to different knowledge communities and knowers to coexist. Such other kinds of integration include:
What makes interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research challenging? What can go wrong and lead to failure? What has your experience been?
Modes of research that involve the integration of different perspectives, such as interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, are notoriously challenging for a host of reasons. Interdisciplinary research requires the combination of insights from different academic disciplines and it is common that these:
bear the stamp of different epistemologies; and,
involve different types of data collected using different methods in the service of different explanations.
By Dena Fam, Scott Kelly, Tania Leimbach, Lesley Hitchens and Michelle Callen
What is required to plan, introduce and standardize interdisciplinary learning in higher education?
In a two-year process at the University of Technology Sydney we identified seven meta-considerations (Fam et al., 2018). These are based on a literature review of best practice of interdisciplinary programs internationally, as well as widespread consultation and engagement across the university. Each meta-consideration is illustrated by a word cloud and a key quotation from our consultations.
By Dena Fam, Abby Mellick Lopes, Alexandra Crosby and Katie Ross
How can transdisciplinary educators help students reflexively understand their position in the field of research? Often this means giving students the opportunity to go beyond being observers of social reality to experience themselves as potential agents of change.
To enable this opportunity, we developed a model for a ‘Transdisciplinary Living Lab’ (Fam et al., forthcoming).
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 sustainable futures and use this experience to highlight the challenges of crafting a convincing piece of research writing that also makes claims of transdisciplinarity (Palmer et al., 2018). We propose four strategies for working with data convincingly when undertaking transdisciplinary doctoral research.
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 Framework (Mitchell et al., 2017) considers three essential impacts:
(1) improving the situation,
(2) generating relevant stocks and flows of knowledge, and
(3) mutual and transformational learning by the researcher/s and involved participants.