The challenges posed by the corona pandemic and the debates on suitable measures for climate protection have made it clear that scientific expertise is currently in greater demand than ever. It is becoming clear that many of the current challenges can no longer be met by one discipline and science alone. This is precisely where the fields of application for transdisciplinary research lie. In joint learning processes between science and society, it links the search for societal problem solutions with progress in scientific knowledge.
Although this research principle has been successfully applied for several decades, especially in sustainability research but also in other areas such as public health research, there are still only a few structures or professional organizations that could ensure the systematic recording and consolidation of scientific standards of transdisciplinary research. However, precisely because of the complex methodological, conceptual and communicative challenges, there is a particular need for structures and places for the bundling and further development of knowledge about transdisciplinarity on a central platform. The platform tdAcademy closes this gap.
Quality gain for research concepts and research practice
The founding partners are four institutions that are recognized in transdisciplinary research: The Frankfurt ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, the Leuphana University Lüneburg, the “Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft” at Technische Universität Berlin and the Oeko-Institut. The Academy pursues three objectives: Further research and consolidation of the state of knowledge about the social and scientific effectiveness of the research; improved capacity building for users and an expansion and stabilization of the community involved with transdisciplinary research.
The cooperation of stakeholders from transdisciplinary research projects, the science studies, and research funding already played a central role in a previous project. The tdAcademy will build on these available results and experiences. “From our many years of work on methods and concepts of transdisciplinary research, we know that linking various kinds of knowledge is essential in order to develop solutions to overcome the crisis,” says Matthias Bergmann, scientist at ISOE and honorary professor for transdisciplinary sustainability research at Leuphana University. It had turned out that the involved parties considered the exchange and learning processes as a definite quality gain for their research concepts and practice. The exchange about methods and quality standards to make their own research more effective became more important for the participants.
Growing demand for transdisciplinary methodological competence
“We have observed a growing need for methodological competence in recent years,” confirms Daniel Lang, Professor of Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research at Leuphana University Lüneburg. For example, there had been an increase in the number of calls for transdisciplinary research training groups, newly approved excellence proposals had increasingly taken up transdisciplinarity as a research practice, and last but not least, the ITD Alliance – an international network for research and education on transdisciplinarity – was currently being founded. In order to address this need and to expand and bundle knowledge about transdisciplinary research and its implementation in scientific and social practice, the “Platform tdAcademy for Transdisciplinary Research and Studies” was launched on June 1, 2020. The Academy will have its office at the Leuphana University Lüneburg and will be anchored with scientists at the four institutes initially involved. It is funded for three years (with an extension option after positive evaluation) by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the funding program “Social-ecological Research”.
Generating new knowledge on the effectiveness of research
The work at the tdAcademy will be carried out along different thematic lines and within various modules. These include, the exploration of new knowledge how transdisciplinary research can be made particularly effective scientifically and socially, the question of what influence different research contexts have on processes and results. “The evaluation of new formats of transdisciplinary research – such as real-world labs – and their impact is also very important to us in terms of the effectiveness of the research,” says Bettina Brohmann, research coordinator for transdisciplinary sustainability sciences at the Oeko-Institut.
“All results will be presented to a larger group of experts and will be jointly examined and further developed”, Martina Schäfer, scientific director of the Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft at TU Berlin, points out. This form of quality assurance is another important task of the Academy. At the same time, the community of transdisciplinary researchers thus gains immediate insight into the research results of the tdAcademy. “Finally, the results of the work are to be incorporated into offers for further training, teaching and process support for research projects and project managers as well as for research funding agencies and will be presented on an online platform”, Martina Schäfer adds.
Platform tdAcademy for transdisciplinary research and studies
The platform tdAcademy supports tasks and challenges for the consolidation and further development of a common knowledge base, it assists with capacity building and community networking in the context of the transdisciplinary research mode.