TransImpact: Project results

When multifaceted knowledge is required: Quality standards for transdisciplinary research

To solve complex social problems, the knowledge of many different scientific disciplines is required. Moreover, if scientific knowledge is to produce effective results for practice, research must also be open to knowledge beyond science. Here is where transdisciplinary research comes in.TD research includes “practical and everyday knowledge” and thus adds a specific but not scientific dimension to the knowledge process. The TransImpact research project investigated how the potentials for (societal) effectiveness of the transdisciplinary research mode can be increased. Via the online platform, the extensive results will be available to users even after the end of the project A transdisciplinary research mode is increasingly chosen when it comes to deal with complex social issues. One reason is that this approach promises stronger societal effects. This means: “By including non-scientific knowledge of actors from society, politics and business, practical, more connectable knowledge can be developed for societal problems with complex structures”, says TransImpact project leader Alexandra Lux from ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research. 

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Abstrakte Netzwerk Verbindung Hintergrund (©iStock by Getty Images: naddi)
Abstrakte Netzwerk Verbindung Hintergrund (©iStock by Getty Images: naddi)

One good example for complex issues is environmental pollution. At first glance, environmental pollution is the result of social action and ecological effects. “But if you take a closer look , you can see that there are complex processes taking place at different spatial, temporal and social levels,” explains Lux. “Events at local and global levels are just as interlinked as short-term events and long-term consequences or everyday actions of individuals and policies worldwide.“

Exploiting the impact potential of transdisciplinary research processes 

Transdisciplinary research takes this complexity into consideration by exploring options for solutions that integrate various kinds of knowledge concerning the emergence and consequences of complex problems. “We wanted to know how we can keep up the promise of effectiveness in transdisciplinary research? What framework conditions are important and what options for fostering societal effects are available in the research process”, reports Alexandra Lux. From November 2015 to February 2019 the TransImpact team was assessing selected transdisciplinary research projects and discussing with project members teams concerned what factors need to be considered in order to increase the potentials for societal effects of transdisciplinary research.
In further exchange with experts from science, society and research funding, the online platform has gradually developed into a collection of material that is available to all users of the transdisciplinary research mode as a knowledge base for high-quality transdisciplinary research. “There are four main topics: Problem constitution, participation of social actors, knowledge integration and the transferability of results”, reports the project leader. “For each topic, the knowledge base offers options to proceed and methods to help improve the potential of the projects and thus their effectiveness.”

About the project 

“TransImpact – Effective Transdisciplinary Research. Analysis and Transfer of Standards for Transdisciplinary Research” was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the Social-Ecological Research funding priority. The knowledge base was developed by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research and the Centre for Technology and Society (CTS) TU Berlin and will continue to exist beyond the duration of the project.