Transdisciplinary research

Social challenges, such as supplying the population with clean drinking water, adapting to climate change or preserving biological diversity, are extremely complex: today's actions potentially have an impact even into the distant future. Local and global levels are closely interwoven and changes in everyday activities are important as are coordination processes at national and international levels. In view of these challenges, individual disciplines of established science are reaching their limits. 

Transdisciplinary research is regarded as a genuine mode of sustainability research with the aim of helping to shape social reality. In joint learning processes between science and society, it links the search for social solutions to problems with advances in scientific knowledge. The prerequisite for sustainable problem solutions is that social actors are involved in the research process. Their views on problems and their everyday and practical knowledge are therefore brought together with scientific questions and findings. This knowledge integration ensures that the results of research can be linked to science and society.

The transdisciplinary research process

In an ideal transdisciplinary research process, three phases can be distinguished: In the first phase, the aim is to combine social and scientific problems thus creating a common object of research. The second phase focuses on the generation of new knowledge – knowledge integration. That way, it is possible to use the diversity of scientific as well as non-scientific knowledge to develop viable problem solutions. In the third and final phase of the transdisciplinary research process the integrated results will be assessed. The initial question of this evaluation process is: What contribution do the results make to social progress – i.e. how valid and relevant are they for dealing with the social problem at hand and also what contribution do they make to scientific progress. So it is important to determine what new insights have been gained within the disciplines and beyond and where new boundaries of knowledge and thus new research questions have become visible.


Jahn, Thomas/Florian Keil/Oskar Marg (2019): Transdisziplinarität: zwischen Praxis und Theorie. Reaktion auf fünf Beiträge in GAIA zur Theorie transdisziplinärer Forschung. GAIA 28 (1), 16-20

Jahn, Thomas/Florian Keil (2015): An actor-specific guideline for quality assurance in transdisciplinary research. Futures 65, 195-208

Bergmann, Matthias/Thomas Jahn/Tobias Knobloch/Wolfgang Krohn/Christian Pohl/Engelbert Schramm (2012): Methods for Transdisciplinary Research. A Primer for Practice. Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag

Jahn, Thomas/Matthias Bergmann/Florian Keil (2012): Transdisciplinarity: Between mainstreaming and marginalization. Ecological Economics 79, 1-10

Jahn, Thomas/Florian Keil/Ulrich Petschow/Klaus Jacob (2012): Politikrelevante Nachhaltigkeitsforschung. Anforderungsprofil für Forschungsförderer, Forschende und Praxispartner aus der Politik zur Verbesserung und Sicherung von Forschungsqualität - Ein Wegweiser. Dessau-Roßlau: Umweltbundesamt

Bergmann, Matthias/Thomas Jahn/Tobias Knobloch/Wolfgang Krohn/Christian Pohl/Engelbert Schramm (2010): Methoden transdisziplinärer Forschung. Ein Überblick mit Anwendungsbeispielen. Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag


Kritische Transdisziplinarität und die Frage der Transformation 
Keynote, Dr. Thomas Jahn, 
„Wandel gestalten, Wandel begleiten: Wissenschaft und Kommunikation“, Darmstädter Tage der Transformation, 
16. Januar 2019 

Transdisziplinarität – Forschungsmodus für nachhaltiges Forschen 
Dr. Thomas Jahn, Leopoldina-Workshop „Nachhaltigkeit in der Wissenschaft“, 12. November 2012, Berlin