The integrative perspective in transdisciplinary research 

Transdisciplinary research is all about initiating joint learning processes in science and society to tackle societal challenges, something which is particularly beneficial to sustainability research. However, the approach is complex, both in terms of the methodology and design and the communication between those involved in the research process. A recent article on the ISOE blog ‘Social Ecology’ highlights the key aspects of transdisciplinary research and provides insights into appropriate integrative perspectives. 

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The idea of academic and non-academic stakeholders collaborating to come up with joint solutions to societal problems is not entirely new. Social-ecological sustainability research, developed in essence by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, rises to key challenges such as resource scarcity, climate change or loss of biodiversity, and extensive experience has already been gained with the approach. Its most important aspects are ‘context dependencies”, ‘innovative formats and methods, ‘societal impacts’ and ‘scientific effects’. These four points need to be viewed in interaction with each other, as they affect the research design and choice of formats and methods, and also the evaluation and interpretation of the results.

However, transdisciplinary (TD) research has so far lacked an appropriate integrative perspective linking together these four key aspects to generate synergies for research processes. In their recent article on the ISOE blog, David P. M. Lam and Josefa Kny – both of whom are staff members of the tdAcademy – address this gap. They join with other authors to make relevant proposals in an English-language scientific publication ‘Transdisciplinary research: towards an integrative perspective’. This paper appeared in the GAIA journal and is the first joint publication from the tdAcademy project – a research and community platform for transdisciplinary research and research about transdisciplinarity, co-founded by ISOE. 

Integrative approaches to promote transdisciplinary research

In their blog article, Lam and Kny briefly outline three proposals for possible integrative perspectives, innovative formats and methods, societal impacts, and scientific effects: (1) exploring and strengthening connections and synergies; (2) enhancing the quality criteria as a cross-cutting element; and (3) building capacity and providing guidance for scientists and practitioners. The fact that both scientists and practicians are often overwhelmed by the complexity and diversity of theoretical approaches and formats in everyday research illustrates the crucial need for capacity building. Thus, the latter is of the utmost importance in coping with this complexity and broadening general appreciation of the need for an integrative perspective on the four central aspects of TD research.

The blog article and the publication are intended to stimulate transdisciplinary research and the debate on integrative perspectives within the TD science community. After all, it is only with the help of such perspectives that the transformative potential of the transdisciplinary mode of research can be fully tapped. The online platform of the tdAcademy is keen to support the exchange of knowledge in this respect. 

To the blog article

Lam, David P.M./Josefa Kny (2022): Transdisciplinary research: how are context dependencies, innovative formats and methods, societal effects, and scientific effects connected? ISOE Blog Soziale Ökologie. Krise - Kritik - Gestaltung

To the publication

Lam, David P.M./Maria E. Freund/Josefa Kny/Oskar Marg/Melanie Mbah/Lena Theiler/Matthias Bergmann/Bettina Brohmann/Daniel J. Lang/Martina Schäfer (2021): Transdisciplinary research: towards an integrative perspective. GAIA 30 (4), 243-249

Scientific contact:

Dr. Oskar Marg
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-26  

Lena Theiler
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-56   

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51