Methods for trans- and interdisciplinary research, Transdisciplinary research, Transformative research
Target group:
in presence
Event type:
Winter/Summer School
with costs
tdAcademy; ISST/Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC); ZTG/TU Berlin
Contact person:
Dr. Josefa Kny (

About the summer school

We live in a world in transformation in which we are faced with complex global problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, hunger and social inequality. The urgent need for a sustainable transformation forces us to take decisions in situations of uncertainty and to continuously adapt our societal strategies.

As professionals, as researchers, and ultimately as citizens we want to embrace this process of transformation. We need to be able to design, build, create, but also to listen, observe, understand to make sustainability changes happen. We have to recuperate the culture of ‘re-‘: reimagining our ways of living, re-evaluating what matters, regenerating social relations to fit to the new values, reducing and reusing products and materials, and, last but not least, reflecting on how to do science.

A disciplinary approach will not be enough to solve the complex problems we are faced with in the 21st century. Academia does not have all the answers, neither does politics, economy or civil society. We rather need a collaborative endeavour to be able to reach a truly sustainable society.

Transdisciplinary research and practice is an approach that allows to bring together different perspectives from sciences and society and to catalyze the solution of real-world problems. In the summer school we want to convey the basics of co-designing solutions, co-producing knowledge and co-evaluating the results of such research practice to Master and PhD students from technologically-oriented disciplines (e.g. engineering, planning, environmental studies) as well as from other fields (e.g. social sciences). To ensure the link to the ‘real-world’, we will apply what we learn to sustainability problems in the region.

Aim of the course

The aim of the summer school is to gain insight into the basics and challenges of transdisciplinary research and practice, that is to enable the facilitation of mutual learning environments where students, researchers, practitioners, activists and citizens (‘quadruple helix’) can engage together during the different steps of the transdisciplinary research process to contribute to sustainability transitions  of their organisations or communities.

Our program includes:

  • facilitating mutual understanding of community problems, through better observing and pursuing the situations faced (inter- and transdisciplinary exchange)
  • empowering students with tools and methods for reflection and collaborative work in heterogeneous actor environments
  • empowering students and societal actors to contribute to solving community problems with their specific perspectives and knowledge
  • reflecting on team building, actor constellations and power relations as well as possible impacts of solutions developed

Case study in focus: Alt Empordà (Catalonia), a disputed land. Land use conflicts in times of climate change

It is said that whoever sets foot in the Alt Empordà always comes back. This is true at least for many wetland birds that make a stop in their migration in the protected areas of the region. It is also true for many tourists who find the flat landscapes, the fairly unspoilt coastline and the navigation in the depths of the Pyrenees Mountain range an ideal place to return to. These are some of the competing land uses in the Alt Empordà area.

The protected land in the area is close to 50% (preservation-conservation-protection-custody levels) which leads to conflicts over land use, as the agronomic, including rainfed vineyards and olive trees, and irrigated fruit trees and orchards, as well as livestock. The urban area growth, highly related to tourism speculation, has also been largely stopped by informed activism platforms like SOS Costa Brava (in Catalan). The more recent conflict is a pre-project initiative for the installation of a large-scale 500 MW offshore wind farm, in the maritime strip which has raised criticism from local administrations, activism and citizenship. During the summer school we will use this case of land use conflicts exemplarily to train methods of formulating and analysing real world problems in close exchange with regional actors.

Agenda of the course

Day 0 (09/25) (optional) Dinner & Get-together
Day 1 (09/26) Disciplinarity and beyond & Meeting the stakeholders (excursion)
Day 2 (09/27) Introduction to Transdisciplinarity | Problem framing & Research questions
Day 3 (09/28) Transdisciplinary Methods |  Participation & Knowledge integration
Day 4 (09/29) Societal Impact of Transdisciplinary Research
Day 5 (09/30) Presentation of Results & Validation by stakeholders (excursion)
Day 6 (10/01) (optional) Excursion to Walter Benjamin Memorial & Wine Cellar (consider around 30€ for the whole day)

Target Group

Master students in their last course and early PhD students from European Universities are invited to join the summer school.

We aim at a mixed selection of participants: We especially encourage students from engineering, planning and environmental studies to join the summer school, but we also aim for a good mixture with  other disciplines (e.g. social sciences or humanities).

General Information

The summer school will take place from September 25th to October 1st 2022 in Llançà, Alt Empordà, Catalonia, Spain. We expect around 25 international participants. The course will be conducted in English.
The regular attendance fee is 250 Euro.
Accommodation and food at Alberg de Llançà will be provided. The participants have to cover the traveling costs to and from Llançà on their own.

The summer school wants to act sustainability-conscious: Please consider taking the train or bus!

How to apply

To apply for the summer school please fill out the following form:

  • Short CV
  • Motivational video (1-2 minutes on what is your motivation to participate in the summer school? Do you already have experiences with inter- and transdisciplinarity? What do you expect from summer school? What is your envisioned topic for your PhD or master thesis?)

Deadline for the application: Application is no longer possible.

Contact: Dr. Josefa Kny,

Organisers and teaching team

The summer school on transdisciplinarity is a joint project by the University Research Institute for Sustainability Science and Technology (ISST) at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) at Technische Universität Berlin within the tdAcademy project. Both institutions are highly experienced in transdisciplinary sustainability research and methodological coaching. tdAcademy is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the FONA framework as part of its Social-Ecological Research funding priority.

The teaching team (so far) includes:

JosefaSummerSchool   Josefa Kny
is a researcher at the Center for Technology and Society at Technische Universität Berlin in the project tdAcademy. Her focus is on methods and societal effects of transdis-ciplinary research. She has a PhD from the Norbert Elias Center for Transformation Design and Research, European University of Flensburg. She also works for the foundation FUTURZWEI, which tells stories about social-ecological change projects, and founded the “Club of Good Future”, an exchange forum for transformation professionals. Josefa studied Future Studies (MA) and Political Science (BA) in Berlin and Stockholm. (More about Josefa)

EliSummerSchool   Eli Roca 
is an aggregate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería de Caminos, Canales y Puertos in Barcelona, where she teaches urban sustainability and coordinates the Laboratory of Social Studies of Civil Engineering (LESEC). She is a member of the Institute of Science and Technology of Sustainability (UPC) and teaches social research at the MSTS. Eli studied Environmental Sciences and holds a PhD in Environmental Sciences from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. (More about Eli)

MartinaSummerSchool   Martina Schäfer
is a biologist (University Stuttgart-Hohenheim), Dr. in Environ-mental Technology and Dr. in Sociology (TU Berlin). Since 2010, she is the Scientific Director of the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) of TU Berlin. Since 1996, she has coordinated in the ZTG inter- and transdisciplinary research projects, in Sustainable Regional Development, Sustain-able Consumption, Sustainable Land Use and methods of inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation. (More about Martina

JordiSummerSchool   Jordi Segalàs  
is the Director of the Research Institute of Sustainability Science and Technology at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya UPC-Barcelona Tech (ISST-UPC). He is the head of the Research Group on Sustainability Education and Technology in Higher Education, and the chair of the Sustainability working group of the European Society for Engineering Education. He has been working in curriculum greening policies and action plans since 2000.  (More about Jordi)

GemmaSummerSchool   Gemma Tejedor 
is a researcher at the ISST-UPC in projects on education for sustainability in higher engineering education (EE). She holds a PhD in Sustainability from the UPC focused on transdisciplinary learning for sustainability within higher EE. She teaches sustainability at the Barcelona East School of Engineering. EEBE-UPC and transdisciplinarity at the Master in Science and Technology of Sustainability (MSTS) coordinated from ISST, at UPC. Gemma studied Agricultural and Forestry Engineering and worked as a forestry engineer for about 17 years, both in the public and private sector and in cooperation projects in Latin America. (More about Gemma

    Miriam Villares
is secretary of the ISST-UPC since 2015. She is professor at UPC since 1989 and Professor of University School since 2001 in the Department of Transport Infrastruc-ture and Territory, where she teaches Urban and Regional Planning and coordinates the Laboratory of Social Studies of Civil Engineering (LESEC). She teaches at the ETS de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos and in the Master in Science and Technology of Sustainability (coordinated by the IS.UPC). Her interests and research areas are focused on the environmental, social and territorial impacts of civil engineering, and social participation in urban planning and mobility. (More about Miriam)