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 | 8. Dezember 2021 | 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.

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Systematizing societal effects of transdisciplinary research

Schäfer, Martina; Bergmann, Matthias; Theiler, Lena | 27. September 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

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

Brohmann, Bettina; Mbah, Melanie; Kelly, Ryan | 3. September 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.


Connecting and building capacity in the transdisciplinary research community

Kny, Josefa; Lam, David P. M. | 26. August 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):

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

Sellberg, My M.; Cockburn, Jessica; Holden, Petra B.; Lam, David P.M. | 23. Juni 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

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

Lang, Daniel J.; Renn, Ortwin; Rehm, Annika; Ernst, Andreas | 25. März 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.

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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. | 2. Januar 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)

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Capacity building for transformational leadership and transdisciplinarity

Barth, Matthias; Bruhn, Andrea; Lam, David P.M.; Bergmann, Matthias; Lang, Daniel J. | 15. Oktober 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.

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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. | 5. Oktober 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

Joining forces in transdisciplinary research – the tdAcademy platform | 15. September 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.

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Start der Plattform tdAcademy: Forschung zur Lösung gesellschaftlicher Probleme und Krisen wird gestärkt

tdAcademy | 19. Juni 2020 | Press Release

Der Bedarf an transdisziplinärer Forschung wächst. Gleichzeitig fehlen in Forschung und Lehre Strukturen und Orte zur Weiterentwicklung und Verbreitung von transdisziplinären Methoden, Konzepten und Kompetenzen. Diese Lücke soll jetzt mit Gründung einer Akademie für transdisziplinäre Forschung geschlossen werden. Die Plattform tdAcademy hat im Juni 2020 ihre Arbeit aufgenommen. Gründungspartner sind: ISOE – Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Zentrum Technik und Gesell-schaft Berlin und Öko-Institut.

Start der Plattform tdAcademy: Forschung zur Lösung gesellschaftlicher Probleme und Krisen wird gestärkt

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. Dezember 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.

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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. September 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.

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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. August 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.

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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. | 4. Februar 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