What motivates researchers to become transdisciplinary and what are the implications for career development?

By Maria Helena Guimarães, Olivia Bina and Christian Pohl

authors_mosaic_maria-helena-guimarães_olivia-bina_christian-pohl.jpg
1. Maria Helena Guimarães (biography)
2. Olivia Bina (biography)
3. Christian Pohl (biography)

If disciplines shape scientific research by forming the primary institutional and cognitive units in academia, how do researchers start being interested in and working with a transdisciplinary approach? How does this influence their career development?

We interviewed 12 researchers working in Switzerland who are part of academia and identify as ‘transdisciplinarians’.

They described seven types of motivations:

  1. Individual ethics, especially a desire to improve society and contribute to the advancement of the common good.
  2. Concern about real-world problems, particularly a desire to engage with societal issues that do not primarily emerge from disciplinary journals or academic discourse alone.
  3. Search for fulfillment, especially the possibility of making a difference in their own lives and those of others.
  4. Wanting to bring together theoretical and practical perspectives, as well as communities undertaking complementary but independent work.
  5. Realising that individual disciplines do not provide sufficient insights to deal with complex problems and wanting to go beyond them.
  6. Wanting to step “out of the box” and being attracted to transdisciplinarity as a transgressive and risk-taking activity.
  7. Desire to be reflective, connected to a range of research interests and to connect across a range of fields.

Read more

Using Ostrom’s social-ecological systems framework to set context for transdisciplinary research: A case study

By Maria Helena Guimarães

maria-helena-guimaraes
Maria Helena Guimarães (biography)

How can Elinor Ostrom’s social-ecological systems framework help transdisciplinary research? I propose that this framework can provide an understanding of the system in which the transdisciplinary research problem is being co-defined.

Understanding the system is a first step and is necessary for adequate problem framing, engagement of participants, connecting knowledge and structuring the collaboration between researchers and non-academics. It leads to a holistic understanding of the problem or question to be dealt with. It allows the problem framing to start with a fair representation of the issues, values and interests that can influence the research outcomes. It also identifies critical gaps as our case study below illustrates.

Read more