Assessing societal effects: Lessons from evaluation approaches in transdisciplinary research fields

Kny, J.; Claus, R.; Harris, J.; Schäfer, M. | | Journal Article

In their article, Kny et al. (2023) present key characteristics of impact evaluation of transdisciplinary research. They compare different approaches in sustainability, public health, and development research to advance joint learning and define common challenges.

Read and download the full paper.

Transdisziplinäre und partizipative Wissenschaft stärken und eine nachhaltige Zukunft gestalten. Eckpunkte für Wissenschaftspolitik, Forschungsförderung und Wissenschaft.

Partner*innenkreis tdAcademy | | Journal Article

Online first, erscheint in GAIA 1/23 (Mai 2023)

Mehr zum Anliegen des Partner*innenkreises tdAcademy: Eckpunktepapier.

Vernetzen, fördern, konsolidieren, stärken – zur Gründung der Gesellschaft für transdisziplinäre und partizipative Forschung

Bergmann, M.; Lang, D.J.; Mbah, M.; Schäfer, M. | | Journal Article

Um den Herausforderungen der Gegenwart nachhaltig begegnen zu können, ist transdisziplinär und partizipativ ausgerichtete Forschung zentral. Diese Art der Forschung erfordert verstärkten Austausch und verstärkte Vernetzung zwischen den Forschenden. Auf Initiative der Plattform tdAcademy wurde dazu die Gesellschaft für transdisziplinäre und partizipative Forschung (GTPF) gegründet, die sich als Anlaufstelle und unabhängige Interessenvertretung der transdisziplinären und partizipativen Forschung versteht – auch gegenüber Politik und Förderinstitutionen. Die Mitglieder engagieren sich in Vernetzung, Aus- und Weiterbildung sowie bei der Konsolidierung dieser Forschungsansätze und der Qualitätsstandards.

Online first, abrufbar unter:

Theory of change in inter- and transdisciplinary research

Kny, J.; Hoffmann, S.; Nagy, E. and Schäfer, M. | 21.02.2023 | Blog-Post

What are key functions of theory of change? For what purposes can we use theory of change in inter- and transdisciplinary research?

In this blog post we give a brief introduction to the theory of change and the functions it provides. Based on our experiences with theory of change in research we discuss for what purposes we can use theory of change in inter- and transdisciplinary research.

Find the complete blog post here.
Watch our tdAcademy webinar regarding ToC

Integrating context, formats and effects in transdisciplinary research

Lam, D. P. M.; Freund, M. E.; Kny, J.; Marg, O.; Mbah, M. and Theiler, L. | 15.03.2022 | Blog-Post

What are the key aspects of transdisciplinary research and how can they be integrated effectively? In this Blog-Post we summarize the findings from the first joint publication of the tdAcademy (see Lam et al., 2021) and discuss four key apects of transdisciplinary research: 

  • context dependencies
  • innovative formats
  • societal effects
  • scientific effects

Along with this discussion we give a short summary of an 'ideal' transdisciplinary research process.

Find the complete Blog-Post here.
Read the full paper by Lam et al. (2021) here. 

Demarcating transdisciplinary research in sustainability science—Five clusters of research modes based on evidence from 59 research projects

Jahn, Stephanie; Newig, Jens; Lang, Daniel J.; Kahle, Judith; Bergmann, Matthias | 20.12.2021 | Journal Article

The discourse revolving around “new modes of knowledge production”—particularly in sustainability-oriented research—seems to suggest a duality of transdisciplinary versus non-transdisciplinary research. Yet, in reality, a spectrum of transdisciplinary research modes may be expected. This article offers an empirically grounded distinction of five research modes, based on a cluster analysis of 59 completed sustainability-oriented research projects. Overall, clusters with more practitioner interaction display stronger societal outputs and impacts at the cost of academic outputs and impacts.

Read and download the full article by Jahn et al. (2021) here.

Transdisciplinary research: how are context dependencies, innovative formats and methods, societal effects, and scientific effects connected?

Lam, David P.M.; Kny, Josefa | 02.02.2022 | Blog-Post

Context dependencies, innovative formats and methods, societal effects, and scientific effects are key aspects of transdisciplinary research which have been discussed at length since the 1970s. Context dependencies are factors influencing both the research design and the interpretation of results (e.g. stakeholders, social/cultural/political conditions, and research setting). Innovative formats structure entire transdisciplinary research processes (e.g. real-world labs) and include various methods such as interviews or workshops. Societal effects describe changes induced within the closer and wider spatial and temporal contexts of transdisciplinary research processes. Scientific effects describe changes in the structure of research problems, research practices, results, and scientific institutions. However, what has been missing is an integrative perspective which combines these four key aspects, potentially shedding light on synergies.

Here you can find the complete BlogPost.

Read the full paper by Lam et al. (2021) here. 

Painting the full picture: An integrative perspective on context, formats, and impact in transdisciplinary research.

N. N. | 24.01.2022 | Blog-Post

In transdisciplinary research, context dependenciesinnovative formats and methodssocietal effects, and scientific effects are key aspects that have been discussed at length. However, an integrative perspective on these four aspects is still missing. This blog post gives a glimpse into Lam et al.’s (2021) recently published paper “Transdisciplinary research: towards an integrative perspective”, where the tdAcademy team provides an overview of each aspect and discusses three integrative approaches for researchers to think about context dependencies, formats and methods, and impacts together.

Here you can find the complete BlogPost.

Read the full paper by Lam et al. (2021) here. 

Transdisciplinary research: towards an integrative perspective

Lam, David P.M.; Freund, Maria E.; Kny, Josefa; Marg, Oskar; Mbah, Melanie; Theiler, Lena; Bergmann, Matthias; Brohmann, Bettina; Lang, Daniel J.; Schäfer, Martina | | Journal Article

Since the emergence of transdisciplinary research, context dependencies, innovative formats and methods, societal effects, and scientific effects are key aspects that have been discussed at length. However, what is still missing is an integrative perspective on these four aspects, and the guidance on how to apply such an integrative perspective in order to realize the full transformative potential of transdisciplinary research. We provide an overview of each aspect and highlight relevant research questions that need to be answered to advance transdisciplinary research.

Download article from GAIA at

Workshop "Das Reallabor - ein Format, viele Ansätze?!"

Brohmann, Bettina; Mbah, Melanie; Kelly, Ryan | 03.09.2021 | Workshop Documentation

Der Workshop „Das Reallabor – ein Format, viele Ansätze?!“ fand am 23.07.2021 im Rahmen der tdAcademy in Kooperation mit dem Steinbeis Beratungszentrum Syntos und dem Netzwerk Reallabore statt. Die Veranstaltung verfolgte das Ziel, unterschiedliche Ansätze von Reallaboren – unter Partizipation von Reallabor-Akteur*innen aus Forschung und Praxis – gegenüberzustellen. Neben der transdisziplinären Betrachtung der unterschiedlichen politischen Ebenen und Handlungsfelder, widmete sich die Veranstaltung der näheren Abgrenzung von Nachhaltigkeitstransformationen und Transformationen durch technische und regulatorische Innovationen, um konkrete Ausgestaltungsmodalitäten unterschiedlicher Reallaboransätze einzuordnen. Im Fokus standen dabei die in Reallaboransätzen einsetzbaren Methoden, der projektspezifische Einbezug von Praxisakteuren sowie die spezifischen Reflexionsmomente in variierenden Projektverläufen. Reallabor-Akteur*innen aus Wissenschaft, Unternehmen, Politik und Verwaltung hatten im Rahmen der Veranstaltung die Möglichkeit, ihre Anforderungen an und Erfahrungen mit erfolgreichen Reallabor-Ansätzen zu diskutieren.


Systematizing societal effects of transdisciplinary research

Schäfer, Martina; Bergmann, Matthias; Theiler, Lena | 27.09.2021 | Journal Article

Over the past decade, transdisciplinary research has been faced with increasing demands by research policy and funding bodies to make its contribution to dealing with complex societal problems more transparent. In the literature, there is a range of methodological attempts to trace and describe the effects of transdisciplinary research, but these are characterized by inconsistent definitions regarding the scope and different forms of effects. This article aims to systematize the proposed categories and introduces a heuristic that can be used as a tool to sensitize researchers to intended effects ex ante and throughout the research process, as well as to reflect on the achieved effects ex post. 

Download from Research Evaluation at OXFORD ACADEMIC

Connecting and building capacity in the transdisciplinary research community

Kny, Josefa; Lam, David P. M. | 26.08.2021 | Blog-Post

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.

This blog post is published at:

This research and platform will be presented at the 2021 International Transdisciplinarity Conference to be held online from September 13–17, 2021: (Online):

A pluralistic and integrated approach to action-oriented knowledge for sustainability

Caniglia, Guido; Luederitz, C.; von Wirth, T.; Fazey, I.; Martin-López, B.; Hondrila, K.; König, A.; von Wehrden, H.; Schäpke, N.A.; Laubichler, M. D.; Lang, Daniel J. | 05.10.2020 | Journal Article

Sustainability science needs more systematic approaches for mobilizing knowledge in support of interventions that may bring about transformative change. In this Perspective, we contend that action-oriented knowledge for sustainability emerges when working in integrated ways with the many kinds of knowledge involved in the shared design, enactment and realization of change. The pluralistic and integrated approach we present rejects technocratic solutions to complex sustainability challenges and foregrounds individual and social learning. We argue that research institutions devoted to sustainability should focus more on creating the conditions for experimenting with multiple kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing to foster sustainability-oriented learning.

Download from Nature Sustainability

Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges

Lang, Daniel J.; Wiek, Arnim; Bergmann, Matthias; Stauffacher, Michael; Martens, Pim; Moll, Peter; Swilling, Mark; Thomas, Christopher J. | 04.02.2012 | Journal Article

There is emerging agreement that sustainability challenges require new ways of knowledge production and decision-making. One key aspect of sustainability science, therefore, is the involvement of actors from outside academia into the research process in order to integrate the best available knowledge, reconcile values and preferences, as well as create ownership for problems and solution options. Transdisciplinary, community-based, interactive, or participatory research approaches are often suggested as appropriate means to meet both the requirements posed by real-world problems as well as the goals of sustainability science as a transformational scientific field.

Download from Sustainability Science at SpringerLink

Linking modes of research to their scientific and societal outcomes. Evidence from 81 sustainability-oriented research projects

Newig, Jens; Jahn, Stephanie; Lang, Daniel J.; Kahle, Judith; Bergmann, Matthias | 26.08.2019 | Journal Article

Sustainability-oriented research has increasingly adopted “new” modes of research promoted under labels such as ‘post-normal science’, ‘mode 2 knowledge production’ or ‘transdisciplinarity’, aiming to address societally relevant problems and to produce ‘socially robust’ knowledge by involving relevant scientific disciplines and non-academic actors into the research.
We present the results of a comparative quantitative analysis of 81 completed sustainability-oriented research projects, coupled with an in-depth study of six projects, to empirically investigate the assumed connections between research modes and societal and academic project outcomes.

Download from Environmental Science & Policy at ScienceDirect

Transdisziplinäre Forschung mit transformativem Anspruch. Zehn Jahre NaWis: Rückblick und Vorausschau

Lang, Daniel J.; Renn, Ortwin; Rehm, Annika; Ernst, Andreas | 25.03.2021 | Journal Article

2011 trat der Nawis-Verbund mit dem Vorhaben an, transdisziplinäre Nachhaltigkeits - wissenschaft institutionell zu etablieren und einen Wandel im Wissenschaftssystem anzu stoßen. Damit verbunden ist die neu gedachte Wissenschaftspraxis der transformativen Forschung, die eine analytische Komponente und einen normativen Auftrag umfasst.

Download from GAIA at Ingenta

Towards a caring transdisciplinary research practice: navigating science, society and self

Sellberg, My M.; Cockburn, Jessica; Holden, Petra B.; Lam, David P.M. | 23.06.2021 | Journal Article

Transdisciplinary research that bridges science and society is needed to address the complex social-ecological sustainability challenges we are facing. However, many transdisciplinary researchers grapple with balancing the competing demands of scientific rigour and excellence, societal impact and engagement, and self-care. This is especially evident in the growing literature by early-career researchers describing the challenges of pursuing a transdisciplinary research career in social-ecological sustainability research. To guide discussion and reflection towards a flourishing transdisciplinary research practice, we synthesized our own and other researchers’ experiences of using a transdisciplinary approach and formulated the heuristic of the ‘Triple-S’: caring for Science, Society and Self. 

Download from Ecosystems and People at Taylor&Francis Online

Launch of the tdAcademy platform: Research to solve social problems and crises is strengthened

tdAcademy | 19.06.2020 | Press Release

The need for transdisciplinary research is growing. At the same time, structures and places for the further development and dissemination of transdisciplinary methods, con-cepts and competencies are lacking both in research and teaching. This gap is now to be closed by the foundation of an academy for transdisciplinary research. The platform tdAcademy began to work in June 2020. The founding partners are: ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Zentrum Technik und Ge-sellschaft in Berlin and the Oeko-Institut.


Transdisciplinary sustainability research in real-world labs: success factors and methods for change

Bergmann, Matthias; Schäpke, Niko; Marg, Oskar; Stelzer, Franziska; Lang, Daniel J. et al. | 02.01.2021 | Journal Article

The transdisciplinary research mode has gained prominence in the research on and for sustainability transformations. Yet, solution-oriented research addressing complex sustainability problems has become complex itself, with new transdisciplinary research formats being developed and tested for this purpose. Application of new formats offers learning potentials from experience. To this end, we accompanied fourteen research projects conceptualized as real-world labs (RwLs) from 2015 to 2018. [... The article] combine[s] conceptual and empirical work to a structured collection of experiences and provide a comprehensive account of RwLs. (Abstract)

Download from Sustainability Science (SpringerLink)

Societal effects of transdisciplinary sustainability research—How can they be strengthened during the research process?

Lux, Alexandra; Schäfer, Martina; Bergmann, Matthias; Jahn, Thomas; Marg, Oskar; Nagy, Emilia et al. | 10.09.2019 | Journal Article

This paper addresses the issue of heightening the societal effects of transdisciplinary sustainability research. The objective is to explore ways of consciously promoting societal effectiveness in transdisciplinary research. We argue that these possibilities evolve at the intersection between the general project framework and an adaptive shaping of transdisciplinary research processes.

Download from Environmental Science & Policy

Transfer as a reciprocal process: How to foster receptivity to results of transdisciplinary research

Nagy, Emilia; Ransiek, Anna; Schäfer, Martina; Lux, Alexandra; Bergmann, Matthias; Jahn, Thomas et al. | 12.12.2019 | Journal Article

This article is based on qualitative explorative research on four TDR projects. Its results were iteratively derived through project analysis, reflection on insights from the literature and discussions with TDR experts. We propose that transfer is a complex reciprocal process in which different types of knowledge are provided and transferred to other contexts, where knowledge is adapted, enriched and modified.

Download from Environmental Science & Policy

Joining forces in transdisciplinary research – the tdAcademy platform | 15.09.2020 | News

Creating a space for exchange, reflection, new ideas, and community building for transdisciplinary research tdAcademy is a platform that seeks to assess the current state of transdisciplinary research and provide capacity-building opportunities for researchers in the field.

Read contribution at

Capacity building for transformational leadership and transdisciplinarity

Barth, Matthias; Bruhn, Andrea; Lam, David P.M.; Bergmann, Matthias; Lang, Daniel J. | 15.10.2020 | Journal Article

Two new academies support future change agents: The Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership is designed to develop the next generation of leaders in sustainability and transformation research. And the platform tdAcademy aims to be a continuously evolving knowledge base for transdisciplinary research.

Download from GAIA