Seventh annual review

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

This annual end-of-year review presents the highlights from 2022 and examines how i2Insights is progressing in building a global community and a repository for sharing research tools to tackle complex societal and environmental problems.

There is currently no other repository that provides easy access to a range of research tools for addressing complex problems in ways that bring together systems thinking, transdisciplinarity, action research, post-normal science, implementation science, design thinking and many more approaches.

Progress is in the right direction, but the i2Insights team is keen to go further and faster. How can the number of contributions and readers be increased? What would you find helpful for i2Insights to do more of or differently? How can we promote productive discussions on more contributions? If you have thought about contributing but have not, what’s stopping you? 

This is the last blog post for 2022. i2Insights returns on January 10, 2023 (Australian time).

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Three narratives describing interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researchers

By Laura Norton, Giulia Sonetti and Mauro Sarrica

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1. Laura Norton (biography)
2. Giulia Sonetti (biography)
3. Mauro Sarrica (biography)

How do inter- and trans- disciplinary researchers talk about themselves? Do these narratives disrupt the status-quo and help integrate inter- and trans- disciplinarity into current academic institutions?

Below, we describe three narratives that can be applied to how inter- and trans- disciplinary researchers talk about themselves, namely as:

  • Heroes
  • Refugees in sanctuaries
  • Navigators of shifting borders.

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Insights into interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in India and Brazil

By Marcel Bursztyn and Seema Purushothaman

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1. Marcel Bursztyn (biography)
2. Seema Purushothaman (biography)

How are interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity faring in India and Brazil? How do they differ from interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in the Global North? Are there particular lessons to be drawn from India and Brazil for the global interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary communities?

India and Brazil are among the most prominent countries of the Global South in the worldwide academic scene. Both have problems in common, but they have also singularities.

The focus in both countries at the institutional level tends to be on what is referred to as interdisciplinarity. The emergence of a new generation of liberal universities and other academic institutions open to interdisciplinary scholarship has allowed a small cohort of interdisciplinary scholars to emerge.

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i2Insights as a repository

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

How is Integration and Implementation Insights (i2Insights) shaping up as a repository of resources useful for tackling complex societal and environmental problems?

i2Insights has two major purposes:

  1. connecting a community of researchers to each other, and
  2. building a repository or knowledge bank of resources.

i2Insights has set out to achieve both purposes using the format of blog, with short, easy-to-read contributions from researchers located anywhere in the world, and with encouragement to peers to comment. We have sought to summarise these purposes in the tagline for i2S:

A community blog providing research resources for understanding and acting on complex real-world problems

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A collaborative vision and pathways for transforming academia

By The Care Operative and “Transforming Academia” workshop participants at 2021 International Transdisciplinarity Conference

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Author biographies

What do we want academia to be like in 2050? Is academia on the right track? What will it take to agree on and realize a joint vision that can steer life in science towards a more sustainable and agreeable place to work, to learn, to share and to appreciate knowledge?

The issues raised here are based on a workshop with more than 40 participants at the International Transdisciplinarity Conference 2021. The discussion was initiated and hosted by the Careoperative, a leadership collective motivated to explore, embody and pollinate transformational sustainability and transdisciplinary research.

Careoperative’s discussion springboard

As a starting point for the discussion, Careoperative members shared ideas on how the current academic system discourages the kinds of leadership required for sustainability transformations (Care et al. 2021).

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Can cultural hegemony explain resistance to transdisciplinarity?

By Livia Fritz, Ulli Vilsmaier and Dena Fam

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1. Livia Fritz (biography)
2. Ulli Vilsmaier (biography)
2. Dena Fam (biography)

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.

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Implementing transdisciplinary research in post-Soviet Armenia and Georgia

By Tigran Keryan and Tamara Mitrofanenko

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1. Tigran Keryan (biography)
2. Tamara Mitrofanenko (biography)

What characterized the Soviet academic system and what is its legacy in two post-Soviet countries, Armenia and Georgia? What would it take for transdisciplinarity to flourish in those countries?

The Soviet academic system

During the Soviet era, the natural and technical sciences were prioritized, while the social sciences and humanities were marginalized. In addition, research functions were removed from the responsibilities of academic institutions and placed under the authority of the Academies of Sciences, which are central state-governed research institutes. Thus, the role of the universities was reduced to teaching, undermining the research capacity of higher educational institutions up to this day.

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Sixth annual review

By Gabriele Bammer

gabriele-bammer_nov-2021
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

As the blog enters its 7th year, it is time for the annual review of how well it is meeting its aims of:

  • sharing concepts, methods and other tools for tackling complex societal and environmental problems and acting as a repository of those tools
  • being a global vehicle for exchange, discussion and network building to strengthen use of those tools.

All the trends are in the right direction, providing impetus to keep expanding the base of contributors and coverage of key topics. If you have developed a relevant tool or use an existing tool in a new way, I would love to hear from you. Comments on blog posts are always valuable. And, of course, feedback and suggestions are welcome.

This is the last blog post for 2021.

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Eight ways research institutes enable interdisciplinary research

By Paul Bolger

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Paul Bolger (biography)

One of the most substantial structural changes and investments to support interdisciplinarity within universities has been the widespread establishment of research institutes. Many have made the pursuit of interdisciplinary collaboration a central goal in their research mission. Biancani and colleagues (2014) have likened research institutes to a semi-formal organisation occupying a plane between the formal university and informal research teams. Membership of the semi-formal organisation is voluntary and researchers and groups can flexibly come together for short or long periods and depart when no longer needed.

How do these entities establish collaborative communities, and create the conditions necessary for effective interdisciplinary research?

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Connecting and building capacity in the transdisciplinary research community

By Josefa Kny and David P. M. Lam

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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.

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What is needed to institutionalise transdisciplinarity?

By Gabriele Bammer

Author - Gabriele Bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

What are the indicators that transdisciplinarity has been institutionalised? How close is it? What still needs to be done to achieve institutionalisation?

Transdisciplinary teaching and research are becoming more common in universities and a range of research organisations. So how will we know that transdisciplinarity is an integral and accepted part of the research and higher education scene, nationally and internationally?

I suggest that there are two primary criteria:

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What’s required for universities to address complex societal challenges?

By David D. Hart and Linda Silka

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1. David D. Hart (biography)
2. Linda Silka (biography)

How can universities use their broad array of expertise to help in understanding and addressing complex challenges, including pandemics, environmental degradation, poverty and climate change?

For more than a decade, we have been engaged in an innovative collaboration with more than 200 faculty from nearly 30 academic disciplines to align university research with societal needs. We conceived of this initiative as an “institutional experiment,” in which our public university in the US state of Maine served as the “laboratory.”

Given Maine’s priorities and our collective expertise, we focused these problem-solving efforts on the challenge of sustainable development, which requires a dual focus on improving human well-being and protecting the environment.

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