Transdisciplinarity in climate change adaptation research

Klimawandel erklärt (© N. Theiss -

Since the 1990s, the reports of the IPPC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have summarized the scientific evidence on the impacts of climate change. However, despite this broad knowledge base, there are growing challenges for societies to use the knowledge about adaptation needs and options for the implementation of action strategies and specific measures. In this regard, the relevance of transdisciplinary reseach it the focus of the project.


The task of climate chante adapation is to cope with both the complexity of the climate system and the complexity of the fields of societal action. This requires not only interdisciplinary collaboration, but also the active involvement of relevant actors from politics, administration and society. In this context, trans¬disciplinarity is becoming increasingly important as a research mode. This research mode promises to take up a real-world problem in research in such a way that the complexity of the problem becomes comprehensible and integrated, practical and contextsensitive knowledge emerges in joint learning and research processes. With this knowledge, dealing with the initial problem should become possible. The transdisciplinary research mode is broadly applied in sustainability and transformation research.

This was the starting point for conducting the present literature review. It examines which particularities exist with regard to methods and procedures in transdisciplinary research processes for climate adaptation. As a primary question, it was investigated to what extent the insights gained so far in transdisciplinary sustainability and transformation research can be transferred to climate adaptation research or are already being applied there. In this way, commonalities and learning spaces between these two fields of research became clear. Furthermore, the results provide indications of the methodological requirements for transdisciplinary climate adaptation research and derive possibilities for further development.

The analysis is based on a systematic document and literature review. The main analysis is done with key documents for an in-depth qualitative appraisal. In this way, particularities for the both research fields,with regard to generic principles of transdisciplinary approaches are derived (characterization meta-studies) as well as single integration methods or method combinations were consulted (characterization method texts).


Science is increasingly faced with the challenge of linking excellent research with impulses for social transformation processes (societal relevance). The project takes this as its starting point and addresses how the political and societal demand for contributions to the processing and mitigation of societal problems can be taken up by transdisciplinary research in general and the research activities in the field of climate adaptation in particular. With its central question, the project not only addresses the need for methodological reflection in climate adaptation research, but also addresses a gap in research on transdisciplinarity; it has not been conclusively clarified which special requirements exist for methods and procedures in transdisciplinary research processes for different problem contexts or fields of action.


Lux, Alexandra/Stefanie Burkhart (2023): Transdisziplinarität in der Anpassungsforschung. Eine Dokumenten- und Literaturanalyse. Climate Change, 2/2023. Dessau-Roßlau: Umweltbundesamt


The project "Document and Literature Analysis: Transdisciplinarity in Adaptation Research" is commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).


2021/10 – 2022/05