Characteristics, potentials, and challenges of transdisciplinary research

Resolving the grand challenges and wicked problems of the Anthropocene will require skillfully combining a broad range of knowledge and understandings—both scientific and non-scientific—of Earth systems and human societies.

The relationship between systems, orientation, transformation, and process knowledge,
which are generated and applied in transdisciplinary processes

One approach to this is transdisciplinary research, which has gained considerable interest over the last few decades, resulting in an extensive body of literature about transdisciplinarity. However, this has in turn led to the challenge that developing a good understanding of transdisciplinary research can require extensive effort. Here we provide a focused overview and perspective for disciplinary and interdisciplinary researchers who are interested in efficiently obtaining a solid understanding of transdisciplinarity. We describe definitions, characteristics, schools of thought, and an exemplary three-phase model of transdisciplinary research.

Depiction of the relationship between idealized TDR project phases
and forms of knowledge produced during each phase

The article also discuss three key challenges that transdisciplinary research faces in the context of addressing the broader challenges of the Anthropocene, and considers approaches to dealing with these specific challenges, based especially on our experiences with building up transdisciplinary research projects at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies.

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