Eleven success factors for transdisciplinary real-world labs

By Niko Schäpke, Oskar Marg, Matthias Bergmann, Franziska Stelzer and Daniel J. Lang

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1. Niko Schäpke; 2. Oskar Marg; 3. Matthias Bergmann; 4. Franziska Stelzer; 5. Daniel Lang (biographies)

What is required for transdisciplinary real-world laboratories (labs) to successfully tackle and achieve long-term societal change? How can they make the change process transferable? What is required of the societal and scientific actors?

We discuss eleven success factors to facilitate successful transdisciplinary collaboration and to achieve desired societal effects. These are based on an accompanying research project, which supported and observed several real-world labs, aiming to develop overarching insights on methods and success factors. The accompanying research project also provided consultancy to strengthen the implementation activities of the real-world labs and supported the networking of the labs, including with labs in other countries.

The factors presented below should be seen as generic recommendations to increase the likelihood of success. As each lab has a unique character, factors should be considered, deliberated and addressed for each lab on an individual basis.

Success factor 1: Find the right balance between scientific and societal goals

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A framework for identifying diversity in epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture

By Varvara Nikulina, Johan Larson Lindal, Henrikke Baumann, David Simon, and Henrik Ny

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1. Varvara Nikulina; 2. Johan Larson Lindal; 3. Henrikke Baumann; 4. David Simon; 5. Henrik Ny (biographies)

How can facilitators take into account diversity stemming from epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture when leading workshops aimed at co-production in transdisciplinary research?

Although facilitators are skilled in mitigating conflicting interests and ideas among participants, they are often poorly prepared for dealing with these other types of diversity.

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Transdisciplinary integration: A multidimensional interactive process

By Dena Fam, Julie Thompson Klein, Sabine Hoffman, Cynthia Mitchell and Christian Pohl

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1. Dena Fam; 2. Julie Thompson Klein; 3. Sabine Hoffman; 4. Cynthia Mitchell; 5. Christian Pohl (biographies)

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.

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A tool for transdisciplinary research planning and evaluation

By Brian Belcher, Rachel Claus, Rachel Davel, Stephanie Jones and Daniela Pinto

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1. Brian Belcher; 2. Rachel Claus; 3. Rachel Davel; 4. Stephanie Jones; 5. Daniela Pinto (biographies)

What are the characteristics of high-quality transdisciplinary research? As research approaches increasingly cross disciplinary bounds and engage stakeholders in the research process to more effectively address complex problems, traditional academic research assessment criteria are insufficient and may even constrain transdisciplinary research development and use. There is a need for appropriate principles and criteria to guide transdisciplinary research practice and evaluation.

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A Partnership Outcome Spaces framework for transdisciplinary student-staff partnerships

By Giedre Kligyte, Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, Jarnae Leslie, Tyler Key, Bethany Hooper and Eleanor Salazar

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1. Giedre Kligyte; 2. Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer; 3. Jarnae Leslie; 4. Tyler Key; 5. Bethany Hooper; 6. Eleanor Salazar (biographies)

How can universities leverage students’ perspectives to create pathways towards lasting organisational change in higher education? How can we conceptualise institutional impact and outcomes of transdisciplinary student-staff partnerships?

Why student-staff partnerships?

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Give-and-take matrix for transdisciplinary projects

By Michael Stauffacher and Sibylle Studer

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1. Michael Stauffacher (biography)
2. Sibylle Studer (biography)

Transdisciplinary research projects often have multiple components, including sub-projects that involve co-production with various stakeholders, more standard discipline-based pieces gathering specific understandings of the problem, and investigations into options for transforming the problem situations.

How can the individual parts of transdisciplinary research projects be effectively aligned? How can interactions and integration within the whole research team be improved? What’s needed to make mutual expectations explicit and to identify possibilities for further collaboration?

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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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A new alliance between the natural and human sciences?

By Sergio Mariotti

sergio-mariotti
Sergio Mariotti (biography)

How can we forge a new alliance between the natural and human sciences in order to deal with complex problems? Can economics and engineering show the way? Where does transdisciplinarity fit?

Ilya Prigogine based his 1990s theory of complexity on the need for a “new alliance” between the natural and human sciences in order to restore a unified knowledge based on plurality, diversity and multiple perspectives.

I explore what this would mean if we focus on two disciplines – economics and engineering – in the context of one complex problem: a future society increasingly influenced by the cluster of organizational and market innovations induced by Artificial Intelligence technologies.

Economists and engineers have played a vital role in the evolution of our modern society. The related disciplines have intertwined with each other, leading to mutual cross-fertilization.

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Navigating intercultural relations in transdisciplinary practice: The partial overlaps framework

By David Ludwig, Vitor Renck & Charbel N. El-Hani

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1. David Ludwig (biography)
2. Vitor Renck (biography)
3. Charbel N. El-Hani (biography)

How can local knowledge be effectively and fairly incorporated in transdisciplinary projects? How can such projects avoid “knowledge mining” and “knowledge appropriation” that recognize marginalized knowledge only where it is convenient for dominant actors and their goals? In addition, how can knowledge integration programs avoid being naive or even harmful by forcing Indigenous people into regimes of knowledge production that continue to be dominated by the perspectives of external researchers?

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Setting an agenda for transdisciplinary research in Africa

By Basirat Oyalowo

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Basirat Oyalowo (biography)

Why is transdisciplinary research important for the advancement of African countries? What are the key issues that need to be taken into account in fostering such research?

This blog post presents key lessons from the ‘Transdisciplinary Research Workshop: Rethinking Research in COVID-19 times’, held in August 2020, in which we brought together academia, government, civil society, industry and development agencies to delve into how researchers might navigate the new terrain wrought by COVID-19 in Africa and use it to further the development of transdisciplinary research. Although the focus of the workshop was urbanization and habitable cities and on adjusting to COVID-19, the lessons for enhancing transdisciplinary research are more broadly generalizable.

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Three types of knowledge

By Tobias Buser and Flurina Schneider

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1. Tobias Buser (biography)
2. Flurina Schneider (biography)

When addressing societal challenges, how can researchers orient their thinking to produce not only knowledge on problems, but also knowledge that helps to overcome those problems?

The concept of ‘three types of knowledge’ is helpful for structuring project goals, formulating research questions and developing action plans. The concept first appeared in the 1990s and has developed into a core underpinning of transdisciplinary research.

The three types of knowledge, illustrated in the first figure below, are:

1. Systems knowledge, which is usually defined as knowledge about the current system or problem situation. It is mainly analytical and descriptive. For example, if you think of water scarcity, systems knowledge refers to producing a holistic understanding of the relevant socio-ecological system, including aspects like water availability, water uses, water management, justice questions, and their interrelations.

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Three complexity principles for convergence research

By Gemma Jiang

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Gemma Jiang (biography)

How can principles adapted from complexity thinking be applied to convergence research? How can such principles help integrate knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines to form novel frameworks that catalyze scientific discovery and innovation?

I present three principles from the complexity paradigm that are highly relevant to convergence research. I then describe three types of transformative containers that I have developed to create enabling conditions for applying complexity principles to convergence.

1. Ecosystem consciousness: An inversion of perspectives

Ecosystem consciousness is necessary because in complex systems the whole (ecosystem) is bigger than the sum of its parts; the wellbeing of the whole and the parts are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

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