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Ten Reflective Steps for Rendering Research Societally Relevant


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Today, there is an increasing need for researchers to demonstrate the practical value their research can generate for society. Over the past decade, experts in transdisciplinary research have developed numerous principles, methods, and tools for making research more societally relevant. If researchers are unfamiliar with transdisciplinary research, they may miss opportunities to adapt these principles and tools to their research projects. We are developing a 10-step approach for joint use by transdisciplinarity experts and researchers about how to best align their research projects with the requirements of transdisciplinarity. We have successfully applied this approach in numerous workshops, summer schools, and seminars at ETH Zurich and beyond. Ten questions guide discussions between transdisciplinarity experts and researchers around research issues, identify and review the societal problems addressed, identify relevant actors and disciplines, and clarify the purpose and form of the inter - action with them. The feedback we have obtained clearly indicates that the 10-step approach is a very useful tool: It provides a systematic procedure for thinking through ways to better link research to societal problem solving.
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While the goal of transdisciplinary research is to be relevant to society,
specific instructions for accomplishing this remain implicit.
We propose to improve this situation by means of a 10-step approach
aimed at stimulating explicit reflections around ways to
render research more societally relevant.
Ten Reflective Steps for Rendering
Research Societally Relevant
Ten Reflective Steps for Rendering Research
Societally Relevant
GAIA 26/1(2017): 43– 51
Today, there is an increasing need for researchers to demonstrate
the practical value their research can generate for society. Over
the past decade, experts in transdisciplinary research have
developed numerous principles, methods, and tools for making
research more societally relevant. If researchers are unfamiliar
with transdisciplinary research, they may miss opportunities to
adapt these principles and tools to their research projects. We are
developing a 10-step approach for joint use by transdisciplinarity
experts and researchers about how to best align their research
projects with the requirements of transdisciplinarity. We have
successfully applied this approach in numerous workshops,
summer schools, and seminars at ETH Zurich and beyond.
Ten questions guide discussions between transdisciplinarity
experts and researchers around research issues, identify and
review the societal problems addressed, identify relevant actors
and disciplines, and clarify the purpose and form of the inter -
action with them. The feedback we have obtained clearly indicates
that the 10-step approach is a very useful tool: It provides a
systematic procedure for thinking through ways to better link
research to societal problem solving.
10-step approach, actor involvement, functional-dynamic interaction,
interdisciplinarity, science-society interface, sustainability research,
teaching, thought styles, transdisciplinarity, wicked problems .14512/gaia.26.1.10
Christian Pohl, Pius Krütli,
Michael Stauffacher
Contact: Dr.Christian Pohl |Tel.: +41 44 6326310 |
Dr.Pius Krütli |E-Mail:
Prof. Dr.Michael Stauffacher |E-Mail:
How to Go Transdisciplinary
Ten years ago, when we were invited to present the transdisciplin -
ary (td) research approach in PhD schools or at conferences, ques-
tions mainly concerned the definition of transdisciplinarity and
how it differs from interdisciplinarity or multidisciplinarity. A few
years later, the questions had changed and focused on how td re -
search should be conducted, and how to align other types of re-
search projects with the td approach. This shift of interest required
a different kind of contribution, one that would act as a bridge be-
tween td research methods and other research projects. A num-
ber of publications provide general transdisciplinarity principles
and present case studies (Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn 2007, Hirsch
Hadorn et al. 2008, Carew and Wickson 2010, Lang et al. 2012),
or provide guidelines for research for sustainable development
(Wies mann and Hurni 2011, Pintér et al. 2012, Helming et al. 2016).
In addition, methods and tools have been proposed regard ing how
to address specific challenges of td research (Bergmann et al. 2012,
Gaziulusoy and Boyle 2013, Vogel et al. 2013). The online tool-
boxes described in GAIA’s series onToolkits for Transdisciplinarity
present such methods regularly (e.g., Bammer 2016). The prob-
lem with these abstract principles and practical tools is that re -
search ers who are not familiar with td research do not know how
to adapt or integrate them to their research project. How and by
whom could this integration and adaptation be accomplished?
In 2011 two of the authors held a summer school on td re-
search at the TsamaHUB Centre of theUniversity of Stellenbosch
in South Africa. We were invited as transdisciplinarity experts to
help align PhD candidates’ and postdocs’ research projects with
the principles and practices of td research. We decided to organize
all: ETH Zurich |Department of Environmental Systems Science (D-USYS)|
Institute for Environmental Decisions |USYS TdLab |Universitätstr. 22 |
8092 Zurich |Switzerland
©2017 C.Pohl et al.; licensee oekom verlag. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons AttributionLicense (,which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,provided the original work is properly cited.
43_51_Pohl 09.03.17 19:29 Seite 43
GAIA 26/1(2017): 43– 51
44 RESEARCH |FORSCHUNG Christian Pohl, Pius Krütli, Michael Stauffacher
the integration and adaptation tasks as a co-production of knowl-
edge by both the researchers and the transdisciplinarity experts.
The research question of each project was the starting point: first,
the researchers were asked to think about how their research
question related to the societal problem they wanted to help solve.
Second, they were to reflect about which disciplines and what so -
cietal actors should be involved to help embed the project in sci-
ence and society. To make the process interactive, we alternated
between short theo retical inputs and longer phases during which
participants related what they had just heard to their own research
projects. We provided the participants with flipchart sheets and
asked them to document their reflections about the steps we went
In Stellenbosch, this process consisted of six steps and it took
a week. In the meantime, it consists of ten steps and we are able
to carry it out in one day. We have used the 10-step approach wide-
ly. It is part of the CCES (Competence Center Environment and
Sustainability) winter school Science Meets Practice (Stauffacher et
al. 2012) as well as of our Seminar on Transdisciplinary Research for
Sustainable Development at ETH Zurich. We have used it with td
research, with applied and (use-inspired) basic research projects,
with PhD students from natural science, social science and hu-
manities, as well as with researchers from international research
programmes. The 10-step approach goes beyond the above-men-
tioned tools and adds to approaches like Schiffer and Hauck’s Net-
Map (2010) in three respects: 1. it connects the analysis of how
a research question relates to a societal problem with reflections
about the disciplines and the societal actors that are or ought to
be involved, 2. it facilitates analyses not only of the societal actors
in terms of their power, interests, and expertise, but also of the re-
searchers from various disciplines, and 3. it provides a structure
for a joint reflection by transdisciplinarity experts and researchers
about their projects.
The presentation of the 10-step approach is structured as fol-
lows. First, we briefly outline our understanding of the td research
process. We then present for each step 1. how we introduce it, 2.
what we ask researchers to do, and 3. what we expect them to learn.
To conclude, we briefly review our previous experiences.
The Transdisciplinary Research Process
When we developed the 10-step approach we were guided by a
specific understanding of the td research process. This under -
stand ing was not stable, but evolved over the last de cade. Before
we start with the ten steps, we usually convey this un derstanding
to the participants and compare it to more linear concepts or mod -
els of the science-society linkage, such as technology transfer,
speaking truth to power (Wildavsky 1987, Jasanoff and Wynne
1998), or public understanding of science (Lewenstein 2002).
Building on the work of Bergmann, Jahn and colleagues (Berg -
mann et al. 2005, Jahn et al. 2012), we understand the td research
process as an attempt to link two processes of knowledge produc -
tion: 1. a societal process, in which actors try to understand and
tackle a particular societal issue, 2. a scientific process, in which
scientists design and conduct research on the societal issue. In
figure 1 this societal issue is sustainable development.
We reframed the societal process as the realm of “practice”,
emphasizing the rationality of relevance and workability (see fig-
ure 1, right side). The challenge of a td research process is to pro-
vide links between “science” and “practice”. This is necessary be -
cause researchers and practitioners typically perceive and handle
sustainability issues by different rationalities – in the words of
Ludwik Fleck (1979), by different “thought styles”.
The scientific thought style (see figure 1, left side) is driven by
questions about how things are and how they function, for exam-
ple, whether a statement about climate change is true and wheth -
er it is based on rigorous argumentation and evidence. Although
truth and rigor are key elements of research, disciplines might
have different perceptions of what they exactly mean, how closely
The transdisciplinary research process
connects scientific knowledge production and
societal problem handling (larger round arrows).
Often the two processes are not explicitly related
(smaller round arrows). The transdisciplinary
research process consists of the stages of framing
the problem, analyzing the problem, and exploring
the project’s impact. Projects run through the stages
in different orders (thin straight and angled arrows).
During these stages researchers of different disci-
plines collaborate and involve soci etal actors in a
joint research and learning experience. The intensity
of collaboration and involvement is functional-
dynamic, i.e., it varies depending on the purpose
of the specific stage (figure 4,p.50). Two rationali-
ties (thought styles)meet and have to be balanced
in this process: the thought style of science
searching for truth and the thought style of
practice interested in workability (based on
Bergmann et al. 2005, Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn
2007, Krütli et al. 2010, Jahn et al. 2012); see also
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GAIA 26/1(2017): 43– 51
45RESEARCH |FORSCHUNGChristian Pohl, Pius Krütli, Michael Stauffacher
they can be approximated, and what is seen as acceptable evi dence
for truth. In addition, disciplines rely on diverse ways of produc-
ing evidence, such as standardized controlled experiments, mod-
els fitted to historical data, mathematical proofs, series of inter-
views that are stopped if information reaches saturation, or argu -
ments that are true if they follow the rules of formal logic.
Society is designing solutions for a societal issue – like an en-
ergy or transport system – in the thought style of practice. Here
the question is not “Is it true?” but “Is it the right approach to the
issue at stake?” and “Does it work?”. Sub-groups of society will
answer these questions differently. Rittel (1971) calls such design
problems “wicked” or “ill-behaved”. They are wicked because:
“For design problems there is no criterion which would deter -
mine whether a solution is correct or false. These are meaning-
less labels which cannot be applied to solutions of design prob-
lems. Plans are judged as good, bad, reasonable, but never cor-
rect or false. And a plan that looks good to Mr. A may be most
objectionable to Mr. B.” (Rittel 1971,p. 19). >
Recently scholars in the field of sustainable development have
started to conceptualize societal issues as “wicked problems” in
Rittel’s sense (Brown et al. 2010, Pintér et al. 2012, Neßhöver et al.
2013, Gaziulusoy et al. 2016). For instance, Mr. A could regard
nuclear energy as a means against global warming, while Mrs. B
could be mostly concerned about the nuclear waste problem. Mr.
A and Mrs. B do not differ in their assessment of the solution be -
cause one is right and the other wrong, but because they value cer-
tain aspects of the solution differently. Both persons base their
assessment on their specific rationality or thought style.
The 10-Step Approach
The purpose of the 10-step approach is to critically review to what
degree and in what way(s) a research project is embedded in the
realms of science and practice. The steps are organized into three
main stages (see table 1):
Formulate a research question and classify research as
basic, applied, or transdisciplinary.
Distinguish between research question and societal
problem; make links between both.
Specify the societal problem identified in step 2 and
relate it to the policy cycle (problem framing/policy
development/implementation/evaluation; figure 2, p.46).
Identify knowledge needed by (primary)target group(s);
check whether the knowledge needed is what research
may provide.
Identify disciplines and societal actors to be involved in
the research project.
Clarify the role of societal actors and disciplines
vis-à-vis your own research (question); identify paths of
interaction (informing, consulting, co-producing).
Actor constellation: moderated role-play placing societal
actors and disciplines around a research question.
The closer the actors/disciplines are to the research
question, the more relevant they are for the research.
Clarify expectations and interests of the societal actors
and disciplines involved.
Design a plan on why to involve which societal actors
and disciplines at different stages of the research project.
Think about lessons learned from going through
steps 1 to 9.
This step helps the researchers to recognize that there are two different realms,
and that positioning one’s own research between them might cause tension.
This step makes the researchers reflect about what the societal problem actually
is, and if and how their own research contributes to solving a societal problem.
This step makes researchers aware that a societal problem is dynamic, that society
is heterogeneous, and that different groups may perceive problems differently.
It identifies the (primary)target group(s) the research should address.
This step makes the researchers reflect on different forms of knowledge their
project could provide, and compare it to the knowledge needed by their (primary)
target group(s).
This step specifies and extends steps 3 and 4 to the world of societal actors and
disciplinary researchers. It increases awareness of relevant expertise and decision
power available elsewhere.
This step helps the researchers to place their research in a broader context by
linking it to other disciplines and societal actors.
This step allows individuals and the group as a whole to reflect about the relevance
of specific societal actors and disciplines for an exemplary research question.
Researchers must substantiate why societal actors and other disciplines need to
be involved. This makes the vague notions of involvement and interaction
(see steps 5, 6)more explicit and concrete.
This step encourages reflections about who to involve/collaborate within one’s
research project depending on the desired societal impacts. It helps to understand
that collaboration is dynamic over time.
This step triggers a reflection on the nine steps and their potential impact on one’s
research work. It helps to identify potential weaknesses in the research project.
TABLE 1: Overview of the 10-step approach.
1, 2
1, 2
5, 6
5, 6
43_51_Pohl 09.03.17 19:29 Seite 45
46 Christian Pohl, Pius Krütli, Michael Stauffacher
1. The goal of steps 1 to 4 is to match the project’s research
questions with society’s current knowledge base and the
need for a solution to the problem.
2. The goal of steps 5 to 9 is to identify the most relevant
disci plines and societal actors, and to figure out how they
can be involved in the project.
3. Step 10 serves to emphasize the importance of reflecting about
the impact of the 10-step approach on the research project.
To trace how the participants implement the ten steps, and to cre-
ate a starting point for discussing and exchanging reflections, we
provide each participant with a flipchart and a pen. We ask the par-
ticipants to divide the flipchart into ten boxes. To obtain compar -
able flipcharts we ask them to do this by drawing an empty table
with five rows and two columns. We use one cell for every step,
starting with the top left cell. Timewise, the exercise usually takes
a working day (six to eight hours), depending on how much we
elaborate on the theoretical input, and how eager the participants
are to discuss.
Formulate Your Research Question(s)
Researchers frame sustainability issues through the thought style
of a particular discipline, of a particular societal group, or through
mixing several thought styles (Wuelser and Pohl 2016). To make
participants aware of their own and alternative framings, we dis-
cuss how problems are differently framed in basic, applied, and
transdisciplinary research according to the typology proposed by
Hirsch Hadorn et al. (2006). We furthermore introduce figure 1
and relate it to the three framings: basic research questions are usu-
ally framed in the scientific thought style, applied research ques-
tions are influenced by the thought style of practice, and td research
questions mix both thought styles.
Participants are asked to formulate their research question(s) in a
short sentence. They also have to state whether they consider their
research question as basic, applied, or td and why they think so.
Learning Outcome
By formulating the research question(s), the participants anchor
the ten steps in their own research project. Considering whether
the question is framed as basic, applied, or td research helps to
position the project in the spectrum from science to practice.
Formulate the Societal Problem You Want to Help Solve
The second step asks participants to clearly separate their research
question from the societal problem they aim to help solve, and to
think about how the research question and the societal problem
are connected. Referring to figure 1, we show different paths of
how a research question can relate to a societal problem. The fol-
lowing example of basic science linking the left side in figure 1
with the right side may demonstrate this: your research might be
on 1. the light-reflection behavior of a particular cloud particle.
Your results might be taken up by a 2. climate modeller, who pro -
vides new insights for 3. the next IPPC assessment report. This
then will change 4. a formulation in the report’s summary for pol-
icy makers, which might influence 5. the design of the climate pol-
icy in your country.
Participants are asked to document the societal problem they want
to help solve with their research. If they do not understand the
question, we explain that this is what they usually write in the sec-
tion societal relevance in a research proposal. Furthermore, we ask
them to clarify via what path their research will become societal-
ly relevant.
Learning Outcome
Learning outcomes differ depending on whether the research is
basic, td or applied. Participants conducting (use-inspired) basic
research usually describe a general societal problem. For example:
a specific gene modification in corn helps to fight world hunger;
and society or policy makers (as a fuzzy entity) are in charge of ad-
dressing world hunger. Asked to clarify the impact path, partici -
pants start to reflect more in detail about who could be interested
in the research. In the case of genetically modified corn it might
be a company interested in selling corn seeds. In that case the eco-
nomic thought style becomes important and research that was ori -
ginally framed from a basic science perspective might be reframed
to include aspects relevant from an applied perspective.
For participants considering their projects as applied or td, the
intended effect of step 2 is to distinguish between the research
question and the societal problem to be solved, or to specify both.
In td projects both often seem to be the same at first. Sometimes
participants realize in step 2 that what they formulated as research
question in step 1 was actually the societal problem, making them
reformulate the research question. Such iterations between the
steps happen often and we encourage them to allow for more in-
tense learning (see table 1, rightmost column).
Specify the Stage of the Policy Cycle
In step 3 participants develop a differentiated understanding of
GAIA 26/1(2017): 43– 51
A simple four-stage approach to the policy process. A policy pro-
cess and its outcome is the result of the continuous interplay of actors from the
public sector (triangle), the private sector (diamond), civil society (circle)and
academia (square)(
Wuelser et al. 2012, p.86).
43_51_Pohl 09.03.17 19:29 Seite 46
47Christian Pohl, Pius Krütli, Michael Stauffacher
the societal problem identified in step 2. We introduce a four-stage
model of the “policy cycle” shown in figure 2. The policy cycle is
a simplified model – a heuristic device (deLeon 1999, p. 24) – of
a society’s process of formulating and implementing a policy. The
four most general stages in the policy cycle are: 1. problem fram-
ing, when society becomes aware of a problem and disputes what
the problem is about and for whom it is a problem at all; 2. policy
development, when discussions start regarding how the problem
should be addressed, and what the goal of addressing the problem
is; 3. policy implementation, when society discusses the policies or
measures to be taken, and implements them; and 4. policy evalua -
tion, when discussions start about how far the implemented poli-
cies help to handle the problem (Jann and Wegrich 2007, Wuelser
et al. 2012).
Participants are asked to analyze the policy cycle of the societal
problem they identified in step 2 and to describe at what stage(s)
it actually is. We make them aware that “society” is a heteroge-
neous entity, and that it might be more fruitful to answer the
question separately for different sub-groups of society. Also, we
ask them to think about what knowledge each group needs, giv-
en the stage they are at.
Learning Outcome
Participants have to clarify where they think the societal problem
identified in step 2 is in the policy cycle. Furthermore, the insight
that the policy cycle might be at different stages for different sub-
groups of society helps them to specify which of the sub-groups
is/are their primary target group(s), as well as each group’s knowl-
edge demand.
Clarify the Form of Knowledge Required1
The goal of step 4 is that participants align the knowledge they pro-
duce with the knowledge required by their primary target group(s).
For that purpose, we introduce the three types of knowledge as
suggested by ProClim (1997):
knowledge about what is (systems knowledge),
knowledge about what should be (target knowledge),
knowledge about how we come from where we are to
where we should be (transformation knowledge).
We then go through the stages of the policy cycle and discuss the
relevance of each type of knowledge for each stage using climate
change as example. During 1. the stage of problem framing, sys-
tems knowledge is required to explain how humans change the
climate system. For policy development, stage 2, target knowledge
becomes important: should we mitigate climate change, should
we adapt to it? What is the long-term vision of sustainable devel -
opment, and who should decide on which path to follow? 3. Poli -
cy implementation requires transformation knowledge: what kind
of technical, political, educational, or economic measures should
be implemented to address climate change? Finally, for policy eval -
uation, stage 4, systems and target knowledge are required to check
whether the policy interventions changed the situation in the de -
sired direction. If needed, the policy cycle starts over again by exam -
ining and improving the original problem framing. Note that,
in general, all forms of knowledge are involved, but one of them
might be of particular relevance for the specific stage.
When going through the stages we explain that depending on
the type of knowledge different disciplines are required: (use-
inspired) basic social and natural sciences in the case of systems
knowledge, the humanities and all kind of assessment method-
ologies for target knowledge, and policy analysis, engineering, eco-
nomics, and behavioral sciences for transformation knowledge.
Participants are asked to reformulate the research question(s) from
step 1 in three different ways: addressing systems, target, or trans-
formation knowledge. We provide the participants with the follow-
ing example:
How does migration affect the sustainable development of
rapidly growing cities? (systems knowledge)
How would a sustainable development of rapidly growing
cities affected by migration look like? (target knowledge)
What technical, legal, social, cultural, or other means could
hinder the negative – and promote the positive – impact of
migration on the sustainable development of rapidly
growing cities? (transformation knowledge)
We furthermore ask the participants to think about which of the
three research questions will answer the knowledge demand of
the target group(s) identified in step 3.
Learning Outcome
The first effect is that participants realize that their research pro-
vides a specific type of knowledge (typically systems knowledge,
according to our experiences), and that they could frame their
research question differently. Second, the comparison between the
knowledge their research provides and the knowledge demand of
target groups identified in step 3 fundamentally challenges the
framing of their research when both do not overlap. This is, for
in stance, the case when transformation knowledge would be
need ed, but the current focus is on systems knowledge.
Identify Relevant Disciplines and Societal Actors
In step 5 the participants explicitly name the disciplines and repre -
sen tatives of civil society, the private and the public sector they plan
to involve in their project. To start, we introduce Ludwik Fleck’s
theory of thought styles and thought collectives (Fleck 1979,2011),
and td research as a process of collective learning and exchange
between different thought collectives (Pohl 2011). Fleck’s thought
styles and thought collectives are helpful to realize that what at first
GAIA 26/1(2017): 43– 51
1 This step is described as the three types of knowledge tool in td-net’s
toolbox for co-producing knowledge:
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48 RESEARCH |FORSCHUNG Christian Pohl, Pius Krütli, Michael Stauffacher
looks like a problem of language and understanding is in fact a
mismatch between disciplinary or professional assumptions
about how reality should be framed and what the relevant or ir-
relevant aspects are.
Participants are asked to write down the six to ten most impor-
tant societal actors and/or disciplines for their project. We remind
them that disciplines and societal actors can be relevant for sever-
al reasons such as their interest, power, or expertise regarding the
issue at stake or the project (Reed et al. 2009, Wuelser et al. 2012).
Learning Outcome
Participants become more explicitly aware of who they consider
the most important societal and scientific actors for their project.
Asking for the six to ten most important societal actors and/or dis-
ciplines forces the participants to prioritize. Furthermore, a total
of six to ten is a workable number of disciplines and societal ac-
tors, also for the remaining steps.
Position Disciplines and Societal Actors in Relation to the
Research Question
In step 6 participants make the importance of each societal actor
and discipline for their research explicit and describe how they
plan to interact with them. To specify the interaction with disci-
plines and societal actors, we introduce Rowe and Frewer’s (2005)
distinction of three types of public engagement. Based on the di -
rection of information flow, Rowe and Frewer proposed the fol-
lowing types (each symbolized with a different arrow):
to inform (k),
to consult (v),
to coproduce knowledge (vk )2.
Participants place the research questions in the middle of cell 6
of their flipchart. They position the disciplines and societal actors
identified in step 5 around the research question. The closer the
societal actors and disciplines come to the research question, the
more relevant they are for the research. And the closer they come
to each other, the more they have in common in relation to the
research. Once all disciplines and actors are placed, participants
are asked to specify the dominant flow of information for each
of them. They connect the actors and disciplines to the research
question, selecting one of the three arrows introduced above.
Learning Outcome
The step reveals the participants’ current mental picture of the
most important societal actors and disciplines. Furthermore, the
arrows show the intended flow of information, to, or from the dis -
ciplines and actors, or the co-production of knowledge.
Carry out an Actor Constellation3
In step 7 the group critically reflects one participant’s mental pic-
ture of the most important actors and disciplines as developed in
step 6: we ask for a volunteer willing to present his/her results
during a 30-minute role-play session involving about ten partici -
pants (figure 3).
1. The volunteer names her/his research question and all disci -
plines and societal actors identified in step 5. The moderator
asks another participant to note each of them on a card. Each
of these roles is then assigned to one of the participants.
2. Those playing a role may ask the volunteer questions about
the discipline or actor they represent.
3. The volunteer places the participant representing the research
question in the middle of the room, and each participant rep -
resenting a discipline or societal actor around it, according to
what s/he has prepared in step 6. The volunteer explains the
reasons for the positions assigned to each discipline and actor.
4. Once all the representatives placed, each participant looks for
missing societal actors and disciplines. Additionally, the repre-
sentatives comment on their own positions. The constellation
usually changes as a consequence of the evolving discussion.
Learning Outcome
A first clarification takes place when those who play a role are asked
whether they know whom they represent (see above, number 2).
Typically, this triggers a process of role clarification. For instance,
someone might first be designated “the government” and then it
becomes obvious that two actors, rather than one, were implicit-
ly assigned this role: the governmental agencies of environment
and of energy, for instance.
The second clarification happens when all actors are placed
and start to argue about where they were placed. A first effect is,
when looking around to see who is involved, that missing socie -
tal actors or disciplines are detected. A second effect is that partic -
ipants start to argue about who is more important for the re-
search and should thus move closer to the research question. A
third effect is that actors start asking what benefits (or harms) they
would derive from the collaboration. This is because volunteers
tend to place actors and disciplines as means to an end, where-
as those who play a role reflect on their own reasons of being in -
Clarify Disciplines’ and Societal Actors’ Expected Contributions
Step 8 serves to clarify the researchers’ expectations concerning
the interaction with societal actors and disciplines. Referring to
Krütli et al. (2010, p.863) we introduce the following key questions
that should be answered in order to design an adapted interaction
format for a project: who initiates the interaction? Who partici-
pates? Why participation? Regarding which issues and when? By
2 Rowe and Frewer (2005)call the third type “public participation”.
3 This step is described as actor constellation in td-net’s toolbox for
co-producing knowledge:
knowledge/methods/actor_constellation_final. The term “actor” includes
both societal actors and disciplines (scientific actors).
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49RESEARCH |FORSCHUNGChristian Pohl, Pius Krütli, Michael Stauffacher
which method(s)? In addition, we introduce Fiorino’s (1990) dis-
tinction between three reasons for interaction:
substantive (i.e., those to be involved have relevant expertise),
normative (i. e., the democratic principle requires that
those affected have a say),
instrumental (i. e., by interaction one hopes for more
legitimized decisions).
We ask participants to review the most important disciplines and
societal actors positioned in step 6, and for each discipline and ac-
tor to specify if interaction is wanted for substantive, normative,
and/or instrumental reasons.
Learning Outcome
The step helps in clarifying who should be involved and why. In
addition, participants may learn about which scientific or soci-
etal actor carries essential knowledge for the project, who might
have power to impact relevant societal decisions, or who might
lose by certain societal decisions and thus needs to be involved.
Plan the Functional-dynamic Interaction
The aim of step 9 is to develop a detailed plan for whom to involve
and how. We introduce the functional-dynamic approach to par -
tic ipation as proposed by Stauffacher et al. (2008) and Krütli et al.
(2010): no process of a complex decision problem requires a sin-
gle level of interaction only; it will rather span different levels at
different points in time. Therefore, the intensity of interaction be -
tween scientific and societal actors depends on the phase, goals,
and content of the process and its context. And the various inter -
action intensities reflect the dynamic involvement of the differ-
ent groups addressed.
We ask participants to define about ten essential project steps for
their research project and then decide for each step what societal
actors or disciplinary experts they need or want to interact with
and in what way (inform, consult, coproduce). We ask them to
sketch the dynamics of this interaction across time (simi larly to
figure 4, p.50).We suggest they use distinct lines for different ac-
tors and disciplines if the interactions follow different dynamics.
Learning Outcome
A nuanced understanding of the interaction with other disciplines
and societal actors emerges: participants start thinking and talk-
ing in detail about each of their essential project steps and the po-
tential or need for interacting. This helps to identify possible flaws
in the project set-up retrospectively or to plan interaction for sub-
sequent project steps. Set-up flaws may include a lack of interac -
tion at the start of the project when aiming at a shared problem
understanding, or too intense and demanding interaction with a
too diverse set of disciplines or actors during intensive data anal -
yses or during the paper-writing period. A too intense or broad
participation can be rooted in the frequently found belief “the
more participation the better”. Step 9 seriously challenges this be-
lieve and replaces it by a more reflected understanding. In addi -
tion, a more efficient and effective set-up for future interaction
becomes obvious.
Think about Main Lessons Learned
The aim of the last step is to reflect about how steps 1 to 9 might
influence the research project.
Inspired by the most significant change technique (Davies and
Dart 2005)4, we ask participants to think about how the process
of working through steps 1 to 9 might change the focus or the pro-
cedure of their research. They have to prepare a short statement
(one minute max) to share the main insights gained. If time and
meeting space allow, this can best be organized as a poster ses-
sion, so that a lively exchange develops within the group about
what everybody learned, and what impact this would have on their
on-going and future research.
Learning Outcome
A first effect is that participants realize how different the individ -
ual learning insights triggered by the 10-step approach are. A sec-
ond effect is that we, as the providers, compare our in tended learn-
ing outcomes with the benefits that the participants derive from
the ten steps, helping us to further develop the approach. >
Carrying out an actor constellation in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
The volunteer (dark blue shirt)and the moderator (light blue shirt)are in the
center, the research question(how to improve livelihoods in informal settle-
ments?, grey shirt)is facing the moderator. Around the research question there
are two circles of relevant (starting with the women left of the moderator)and
less relevant (starting with the man right of the volunteer)societal actors and
disciplines. The other participants observe and comment on the exercise.
© Michael Stauffacher
4 This method is described as the most significant change tool in td-net’s
toolbox for co-producing knowledge:
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50 RESEARCH |FORSCHUNG Christian Pohl, Pius Krütli, Michael Stauffacher
with step 2, when describing the societal problem. Those par-
ticipants usually argue that they do basic research and are not
interested in societal relevance. In such cases the approach
might not be useful. However, basic researchers who are curi -
ous about the possible relevance of their research to societal
problem solving find the ten steps valuable.
Should supervisors, societal actors and funders participate in the
ten steps? Up until now we most frequently applied the 10-step
approach with the researchers who actually conducted the re -
search. This is because researchers might not yet be clear on
whom to involve in what role. As a side effect, the reflection
on what disciplines and societal actors to involve is more free
and less influenced by the requirements of funders, supervi -
sors, or specific societal actors. However, in a transdisciplinary
mind-set the project should be further developed in collabora -
tion with those concerned. How to deliberate between space
for free thinking and involvement of disciplines and societal
actors from early on, is a question to be explored.
The 10-step approach provides guidance for systematically think-
ing through how research can be better linked to societal problem
solving. However, it should not be seen as a fixed procedure. We
invite those who use it to add further steps if indicated (for in-
stance to discuss the stage of problem framing in different disci -
plines), to explore alternative methods in individual steps, or to
walk through the steps in an alternative order.
We would like to thank all the participants for being active and
committed in the ten steps. The current form is nearly as much
influenced by their feedback as by our ideas. Furthermore,
we would like to thank two anonymous reviewers, and in particular
Kjell Törnblom and Astrid Bjoernsen for critically reviewing and
improving the manuscript.
In addition to the feedback we receive throughout the ten steps,
we regularly evaluate the significance of the approach as an ele -
ment of the CCES winter school Science Meets Practice. Based on
these sources of feedback we conclude the following:
The 10-step approach provides a structure for systematic thinking
about how research can be linked to societal problem solv ing. Such
a structured reflection is new to most researchers. The ten steps
were always evaluated as one of the most valuable and insight-
ful parts of the winter school.
Which particular steps are considered most valuable is not predict -
able. Every time we go through step 10, we are surprised by the
variety of steps that the participants think are the most rele-
vant. It seems likely that the value of each step depends on the
specific context of a given project – whether it follows a basic,
applied, or td approach, whether it mixes several forms of
knowledge, and how far the researcher’s td thinking is devel-
The 10-step approach can be used during different stages of a proj-
ect. When designing the ten steps, we thought the approach
would be particularly helpful during the early stages of a proj-
ect, when research questions are being framed. However, we
have learned from our participants that it can also be used to
critically rethink a project near its end, and to design a follow-
up project in a way that is more aligned with the td approach.
We also face challenges and open questions with the 10-step ap-
Basic researchers who are not interested in societal problem solving
see no benefit in the ten steps. A small number of participants
does not perform the approach enthusiastically. This starts
Functional-dynamic approach to collaboration in a hypothetical project. The intensity of involvement of societal actors(light green dotted line)and
of the collaboration between disciplines (dark green dotted line)varies over the transdisciplinary research process. It depends on the stage, goals, and content
of the process as well as its context (further developed based on Stauffacher et al. 2008 and Krütli et al. 2010).
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Submitted October 17,2016; revised version accepted February 16, 2017.
Pius Krütli
Born 1958 in Horw, Switzerland. Doctoral degree at
ETH Zurich in 2010. Since 2013 co-director of the
Trans disciplinarity Lab of the Department of Environmental
Systems Science (USYS TdLab)at ETH Zurich. Research
interests: decision-making processes with a special
focus on procedural justice; methods and practice of transdisciplinary
(research)processes; justice related to the allocation of scarce resources.
Christian Pohl
Born 1966 in Windisch, Switzerland. 1999 doctoral degree
at ETH Zurich, 2013 habilitation at the University of Bern.
2003 to 2016 co-director of td-net of the Swiss Academies
of Arts and Sciences. Since 2013 co-director of the Trans-
disciplinarity Lab of the Department of Environmental
Systems Science (USYS TdLab)at ETH Zurich. Research interest: theory and
practice of transdisciplinary research as a means for sustainable development.
Michael Stauffacher
Born 1965 in Solothurn, Switzerland. 2006 doctoral degree
in sociology. Since 2015 Titularprofessor(Adjunct Professor)
at ETH Zurich. Since 2013 co-director of the Transdisci -
plinarity Lab of the Department of Environmental Systems
Science (USYS TdLab)at ETH Zurich. Research interests:
contested energy infrastructures, urban development, field experiments,
transdisciplinary research. Member of GAIA’s Scientific Advisory Board.
43_51_Pohl 09.03.17 19:29 Seite 51
... modes of validation, what is considered as good, adequate, or false) (Eigenbrode et al. 2007;Scholz and Steiner 2015). While Jahn et al. (2012) and Lang et al. (2012) juxtapose societal problems, societal discourse and results for societal praxis on the one side and scientific problems, scientific discourse and results for the scientific praxis on the other side in their framework of an idealised TDR process, Pohl et al. (2017) frame the dichotomy between science and practice as the "realm of science, rigour and understanding" and the "realm of practice, relevance and design". Reviewing the discourse shows that scholars emphasise that the TDR process connects scientific knowledge production and societal problem handling via the formation of a common research object, the co-production of new knowledge and TD knowledge integration (Jahn et al 2012;Lang et al. 2012). ...
... Reviewing the discourse shows that scholars emphasise that the TDR process connects scientific knowledge production and societal problem handling via the formation of a common research object, the co-production of new knowledge and TD knowledge integration (Jahn et al 2012;Lang et al. 2012). It also emphasises that the two rationalities have to be met and balanced in the TDR process: the thought style of science searching for truth and the thought style of practice interested in workability (Pohl et al. 2017, based on Bergmann et al. 2005Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn 2007;Jahn et al. 2012). ...
... motivation, goals and varying understanding of project success, validation of findings) (Eigenbrode et al. 2007;Scholz and Steiner 2015). As such, the VPs are close to, but slightly different from, the dichotomy between the realm of science and rigour and the realm of practice and relevance (Pohl et al. 2017). It turned out that TDR project team members share a common understanding of the necessary conditions for TDR collaboration, such as openness and tolerance for collaboration, willingness to address tensions and conflicts, collaboration as equals, and the perception that the open-ended nature of the project is not a threat. ...
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Transdisciplinary research (TDR) collaborations are considered effective when they yield relevant results for science and practice. In this context, the different expectations, experiences, skills, and disciplines of the team members involved determine TDR collaboration. Using the example of 13 team members involved in the 3-year TDR project ‘Römerland Carnuntum 2040’ (Austria), we aim to identify and compare diverse expectations regarding TDR collaboration. In doing so, we question the often emphasised dichotomy between science and practice as the main challenge of TDR collaboration and aim towards making individual expectations regarding TDR collaboration visible and tangible. The contribution of the present paper is twofold: on the one hand, we provide statements for a formative assessment to externalise implicit expectations, assumptions, and epistemologies of TDR project team members regarding TDR collaboration and results. On the other hand, we present the Q-methodology as a viable approach to uncover diverging viewpoints as visible, tangible, and enunciable differences that need to be acknowledged in early stages of TDR projects when allocating resources and planning further project steps. Our investigations result in two viewpoints: one emphasises learning, collective reflection, and knowledge exchange as the main TDR expectation. The second focuses on ‘changing practices’, assuming that the project supports the introduction of new practices for (sustainable) regional development. These diverging expectations reveal subconscious tensions, which have to be addressed when allocating resources and defining project success within the TDR project.
... For people involved in TD projects, I recommend investing in careful project planning and adaptive management throughout the project. Pohl et al. (2017), for example, prepared a 10-step approach to make research societally relevant, which can be directly used as a guide for project planning and implementation. Furthermore, researchers should reflect on their motivation to actually work in a TD setting. ...
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Transdisciplinary research projects integrate several disciplines and practice stakeholders into the research process. Both of these interactions are described as important in addressing complex and interconnected sustainability problems. In addition to knowledge generation, transdisciplinary research projects have other effects. For example, they may facilitate the adoption of solutions, whereas traditional research projects focus on the presentation of results. However, there is considerable diversity in transdisciplinary research projects in terms of their design, research process, and surrounding institutions, making it difficult to unravel what type of transdisciplinary research project works well to reach which effects. This article uses a systematic literature review and expert interviews to study how different input, process, and institutional factors influence the effects of transdisciplinary research projects. The results show that process factors, such as the quality of the process or the specific methods used, have the strongest influence on the effects of transdisciplinary projects, whereas institutional factors are less prominent. Furthermore, different factors influence not only the effects but also each other and are thus interconnected.
... Relationships between academic and non-academic partners are equally complex, with hidden power dynamics, biases and assumptions often disrupting planned pathways to impact (Langthaler et al. 2012;Scholz and Steiner 2015;Wanner et al. 2018;Fritz and Meinherz 2020). Recognising the inherently subjective nature of impact may be the first step that many researchers take towards recognising their own subjectivity and positionality as researchers, and recognising the multiplicity of ways that knowledge can be constructed and used to generate benefits for others [guidance exists on operationalising this in a range of settings, including policy (e.g., Cairney 2021), international development (e.g., Brissett 2020), working with Indigenous groups (e.g., Woodward et al. 2020;Gewin 2021) and transdisciplinary research (e.g., Pohl et al. 2017;Dannecker 2020)]. ...
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The world is facing unprecedented challenges on a scale that has never been seen before, and the need for evidence-informed solutions has never been greater. As a result, academics, policy-makers, practitioners, and research funders are increasingly seeking to undertake or support research that achieves tangible impacts on policy and practice. However, the impact of research is inherently subjective, with the same outcome perceived as either beneficial or negative by different groups, or by the same group in different contexts. It is therefore important to consider factors that may increase the likelihood that outcomes from research are perceived as beneficial (or otherwise) by interested/affected groups and non-academic partners, to help researchers avoid causing potentially harmful impacts, despite their best intentions. In this overview article, we discuss three considerations for re-thinking how research can deliver such outcomes: (i) sensitivity to context, (ii) representation and legitimisation of diverse voices and (iii) the management of power dynamics. We then discuss how these can be enacted in research and engagement processes that are designed to incorporate multiple ways of viewing reality and knowledge, as researchers become increasingly aware of their positionality, privilege, assumptions and biases. By considering how research and impact generation processes are mediated by context, power and voice, it may be possible to envision just transformations of knowledge systems that foreground the knowledge and needs of diverse groups, including those who have been historically marginalised, and without systematically recognising or privileging one group over another.
... We adopted a transdisciplinary research approach to generate a climate resilience indicator framework, for the purpose of assessing the different sustainability certifications' impact on cocoa farmers (Pohl et al., 2017). Transdisciplinary research involves, inter alia, the co-framing of problems between stakeholders and scientists and are chosen here to co-frame climate resilience with farmers and cocoa value chain stakeholders (Lang et al., 2012). ...
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Sustainability certification has been posited as a key governance mechanism to enhance the climate resilience of smallholder farmers. Whilst many certifications now include climate resilience in their standards, their ability to deliver this for smallholders remains untested. We take the case of the 2015-16 drought-shock to cocoa production in Ghana to examine whether certification can enhance smallholder climate resilience. We used a novel transdisciplinary methodology combining participatory outcome definition with household surveys, biophysical measurements, satellite data and counterfactual analysis. Utilising our climate resilience framework, we find that certification has a strong effect on the adoption of basic management, e.g. fertilization, but a weak influence on more complex resilience strategies, e.g. agroforest diversification. Beyond certification , we identify strong regional patterns in resilience. These findings suggest that certification has some potential to enhance climate resilience but greater focus on facilitating diversification and adapting to sub-national contexts is required for improved effectiveness. ARTICLE HISTORY
... A transdisciplinary approach has the potential to account adequately for the multi-level processes and the multiple actors involved in EOPS (Fig. 3). Such a transdisciplinary approach entails deriving EOPS through integrating both societal needs and perspectives with scientific perspectives of the issues an EOPS aims to address through (1) collaborative problem framing, (2) co-producing solution oriented knowledge and (3) applying the co-produced EOPS in science and societal practice (Lang et al. 2012;Bergmann and Jahn 2017;Pohl et al. 2017). The expectation is to enhance the relevance of the EOPS for societal practice. ...
Full-text available
Africa stands to gain from Earth Observation (EO) science, products and applications. However, its use and application remain below potential on the continent. This article examines how EO can better serve the needs of African users. First, we argue that a successful uptake of EO services is conditional on understanding the African context and matching EO development and deployment to it. Using reference cases, we find that actors outside Africa drive most EO initiatives, whereas country-level expenditures on EO remain low. Recent developments, such as the African space policy and strategy, and initiatives in partnerships with Africa-based organisations to develop a community of practice on EO hold the potential to fill the identified gaps. The analysis indicates that most EO users are either government organisations or researchers, with very few cases involving other types of users. It is generally assumed that users at the local levels are educated and digitally literate, or that the transmission of EO-based knowledge is achieved by government officers and researchers. Although still very few, potentials are emerging for the private sector to deploy EO products and services such as crop or index-based insurance directly to farmers. These private initiatives have prospects for further developing indigenous EO capacity as envisioned in the African space policy and strategy. We then formulate recommendations for a transdisciplinary approach that integrates user contexts, attributes and needs to enhance the uptake of EO products and services in Africa. We conclude by proposing actions to close some of the identified gaps and seize emerging opportunities. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10712-022-09724-1.
... As a project that aspired to transdisciplinarity, there was a keen willingness to engage with peatland decision-makers, from community (village) scale through the various administrative levels to national government agencies and policy-makers. Taking Pohl et al.'s conceptualisation of transdisciplinary research through 10 steps, the steps 2-4 relate to identifying, understanding and engaging with a "societal problem" (following Step 1 which refers to classifying the research as basic, applied or transdisciplinary) (Pohl et al. 2017). ...
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Knowledge systems approaches for enhancing the impact of research are well established and tend to focus on the ways in which researchers can adapt their engagement with stakeholders to achieve a better “fit” between research and action agendas. Yet, these approaches are often based on explicit or implicit assumptions of a skilled and willing research team, and stable and well-defined stakeholders, who have consistent and reasonably well-defined needs. This paper discusses how knowledge systems approaches were developed and deployed in the first phase of the Gambut Kita (Our Peatland) project on community fire management and peatland restoration in Indonesia (2017–2021). This was a complex project with a large multi-disciplinary team situated across dynamic institutions in Indonesia and Australia, and addressing a politically controversial topic. To capture the diverse experience of the researchers, and to focus on the needs of stakeholders, we developed a sequence of whole-of-project approaches comprising the following: (i) stakeholder mapping exercises at three nested scales combining stakeholder analysis, knowledge systems mapping and impact pathways analysis; (ii) a project coordinating committee of high-level Indonesian policy-makers and policy-influencers; (iii) a stakeholder engagement forum and (iv) online policy dialogues. We demonstrate its effects through the case of developing an Indonesian Peat Fire Danger Rating System (Peat FDRS), as a core project deliverable. Over 4 years, these structured stakeholder engagement processes gave rise to a Peat FDRS Stakeholder Engagement Network (a multi-institutional working group), which is making significant progress in navigating the complexity inherent in realising an accurate Indonesian Peat FDRS.
This Chapter has the function of introducing the different starting positions of the authors and to provide a first list of viewpoints on social-ecological systems of the southern Baltic region. After a short general introduction, Chap. 2 describes the central role of human needs for the construction of a unified human-environmental model conception. It argues towards the approach of ecosystem services and gives a first impression on the demand for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary integration. This strategy is generally deepened in Chap. 2, while in Chap. 2, the situation in different participating disciplines is described: It is shown from which state marine ecology, coastal ecology, ecosystem analysis, environmental economics, and environmental ethics have proceeded to cooperate on the attempt to better understand the coastal systems from a multidisciplinary point of view. Finally, the demand for interdisciplinary integration is illuminated in Chap. 2 with respect to the following contents and structures of this book.
Risk, as opposed to the physical hazard, always involves consequences like damages or losses. Risk is a concept which is difficult to grasp, partly because it cannot be directly measured. Furthermore, risk cannot be summarized in only a single number. Nevertheless, risk has to be characterized for a number of applications, ranging from risk assessment to risk communication, stakeholder involvement, and discussions on the level of acceptable risk. The authors are providing an approach to characterize risk. These risk characteristics are the result of practical applications in natural hazard risk management. With these characteristics, risk can be used as a basis for decisions regarding the level of acceptable risk or for the appraisal of risk reduction measures, including the characterization of uncertainties in current or future risk.
Technical Report
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Det finns en vilja att förtäta i närheten av stationer för att öka användningen av kollektivtrafik och därmed minska klimatpåverkan kopplad till transpor- ter. Förtätning bidrar bland annat till att skapa levande stationssamhällen, med blandade funktioner, god tillgäng- lighet och miljöer som är trygga och vistelsevänliga där olika grupper och behov möts. Potentialerna är många men så även utmaningarna. Förtätning av stationsnära områden kan också leda till oönskade konsekven- ser för social, ekonomisk och ekologisk hållbarhet. Den här rap- porten kan förhoppningsvis ge ökad förståelse för förtätning i relation till regional tillgänglighet samt för positiva och negativa konsekvenser av förtätning i stationsnära områden. Den kan också skapa insikter om hur olika alternativ för utveckling av stations- nära områden kan värderas utifrån Agenda 2030, särskilt Mål 11: Hållbara städer och samhällen. Rapporten är framtagen inom projektet Urbana stationssamhäll- en – förtätning av stationsnära områden för god tillgänglighet (2020–2022) som finansierats av Trafikverket och bedrivits i sam- verkan mellan Urban Futures vid GMV (projektägare), Arkitektur och samhällsbyggnadsteknik vid Chalmers tekniska högskola, Gö- teborgsregionen (GR), Samhällsplanering vid Högskolan Dalarna och Samhällsplanering och miljö vid KTH.
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Given that research on sustainable development usually relates to real-world challenges, it requires researchers to align scientific knowledge production with concrete societal problem situations. To empirically explore how researchers frame scientific contributions when designing and planning projects, we conducted a qualitative study on land use--related projects based on the methodology of grounded theory. We identified major influence factors and various types of research design. Among the factors that influence project framing, scientific considerations were found to be more important than expected. Core characteristics of project framings concerned (a) type of scientific contributions envisaged; (b) real-world sustainability challenges addressed, and (c) researchers' conceptions of how knowledge would reach its addressees. Three different types of project framing were found, suggesting that framing strongly depends on (the researchers' perception of) how well a real-world problem situation is understood scientifically and how strongly are societal actors aware of the problem and act upon it. The spectrum of how researchers planned that knowledge would reach its addressees comprised communicating results to interactive conceptions allowing for mutual learning throughout the research process. The typology reveals a variety of useful and promising project framings for sustainable development research. The typology may serve to reconcile conceptual ideals and expectations with researchers' realities.
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by Rick Davies and Jess Dart, 2005
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When Roderick Lawrence and Carole Després introduced a special issue of the journal Futures on transdisciplinarity in 2004, they called it a word ‘à la mode’ (Lawrence and Després,2004). More attention has been paid in the literature to research practice. From the beginning, however, the concept was linked with the goal of changing higher education and its relationships to society. This chapter presents an overview of theoretical and conceptual frameworks for transdisciplinary (TD) education, curriculum models, in situ modes of learning in professional practice and community settings, and a culminating reflection on transdisciplinary skills.
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SAGUF is engaged in a winter school aimed at enabling PhD students to successfully work at the science-society interface. The winter school integrates theoretical reflection with practical experiences.
One of the foremost experts in public policy here attempts not only to describe what public policy is, but given societal changes in the last two decades, to account for its present status.To learn from the past in order to establish public policy as a discipline in its own right, Wildavsky traces its motifs from their beginnings in the 1960s to the 1980s. Starting from the premise that there has been growing polarization of political elites, he shows how public policy as a field has had to face increased politicization. For Wildavsky, the field of public policy needs to incorporate more awareness of the human aspects of policy making: he emphasizes the political choices to be made in a competitive environment and the social relations that sustain them.When the first specialist schools devoted solely to public policy came into existence in the 1960s, the programs of the Great Society were their main impetus. With the disillusionment and failure of the Great Society, the identity of public policy became transformed. New theoretical issues had to be addressed. In this volume, Wildavsky provides a foundation for the theory no less than the practice of policy-making.Aaron Wildavsky is professor of political science, University of California, Berkeley. He founded the School of Public Policy there, and is presently its Director. He was formerly Director of the Russell Sage Foundation. He was the President if the American Political Science Association for the years 1986-1987. © 1987 by Taylor & Francis and 1979 by Aaron Wildavsky. All rights reserved.
Transdisciplinary research is increasingly used in projects dealing with transitions to sustainable, resilient and low-carbon societies. Transdisciplinary research projects require collaboration and coordination between researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds. Academic literature provides valuable insights on designing, facilitating, leading and evaluating transdisciplinary projects. While a substantial body of literature explores the challenges associated with transdisciplinary research, there is a scarcity of case studies exploring the challenges faced during different phases of project execution. In this paper we present a reflective account and analysis of our experiences during the first fifteen months of a transdisciplinary research project. The project is used as a case study, following a participatory action research methodology. Our findings verified the three types of challenge mentioned in the literature - inherent, institutional and teamwork related. This paper identifies a fourth type - emergent - that has not been discussed in the literature. Emergent challenges introduce uncertainty into TDR projects and are uncontrollable. Such challenges require research consortium leaders to develop adaptive strategies, and to take a mediation and leadership role in dealing with them. The article makes the following recommendations: emergent challenges require emergent strategies; funding should be more flexible to account for the nature of TDR research; TDR could be evaluated on the basis of its overall impact rather than on inflexible 'deliverables'; academic publishing strategies must be incorporated into TDR projects; team development and co-location should be facilitated; and academic institutions should include performance and promotion criteria encouraging researchers to undertake roles in TDR projects.