ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

In response to the interconnected character of societal challenges, there is a growing interest in transdisciplinary sustainability research. However, for transdisciplinary research to be able to support the generation of new knowledge in a participatory and reflexive manner, a number of challenges have been identified in each stage of the transdisciplinary research process. In this paper, we respond specifically to the challenge of initiating transdisciplinary research projects, by proposing a process for performing transdisciplinary project scoping. Our group of early‐career researchers share experiences from scoping for transdisciplinary research potential, bridging local stakeholder needs with researchers’ interests across departments and national contexts. We present our methodological approach,which includes tools for stakeholder identification, systems thinking, and gap‐mapping. The approach was applied in the local context of the Navarino Environmental Observatory, Messinia, Greece. The findings identify regional sustainability concerns related to, for example, tourism, agriculture, and environmental management issues. The gap‐map highlights overlaps (e.g., in terms of existing research on the effects of agriculture on water resources), but also how previous research has been conducted on spatial and temporal scales not directly relevant to local actors. We believe that the approach can be used beyond this case study to identify the potential for problem‐oriented inter‐and transdisciplinary research.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Transdisciplinary research for
sustainability: scoping for project potential
Therese Bennich, Giorgos Maneas , Soa Maniatakou ,
Luigi Piemontese , Christina Schaffer , Marie Schellens
and Carl Österlin
1. Introduction
In response to sustainability challenges, the UN
We are a group of early career researchers
afliated with Stockholm University, Swe-
den. We research human-nature interac-
tions, and often use participatory methods to
engage actors from governments, civil soci-
ety, and industry.
Therese Bennich is at Department of Physi-
cal Geography.
Email: therese.bennich@natgeo.su.se
Giorgos Maneas is at Department of Physi-
cal Geography.
Email: giorgos.maneas@natgeo.su.se
Soa Maniatakou is at Stockholm
Resilience Centre.
Email: soa.maniatakou@gmail.com
Luigi Piemontese is at Stockholm
Resilience Centre.
Email: luigi.piemontese@su.se
Christina Schaffer is at Department of Phys-
ical Geography.
Email: christina.schaffer@natgeo.su.se
Marie Schellens is at Department of Physi-
cal Geography.
Email: marie.schellens@natgeo.su.se
Carl Österlin is at Department of Physical
Geography.
Email: carl.osterlin@natgeo.su.se
launched the 17 Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs)
in 2015, seeking to tackle
both environmental and social
issues (UN General Assembly
2015). The SDGs explicitly
seek integrated approaches to
their analysis and implemen-
tation. However, there are
no guiding frameworks in
place to support the integra-
tion process. Sustainability
problems and solutions, such
as those addressed under the
SDG umbrella, are complex
and therefore require new
types of research approaches
(Leemans 2017; Miller et al.
2014; Wiek et al. 2012). One
important component of such
research efforts is the ability
to account for input from var-
ious communities of knowl-
edge to “ensure that the essen-
tial knowledge from all rel-
evant disciplines and actor
groups related to the problem is incorporated”
(Lang et al. 2012, p.26). Other critical components
include the need to nd durable solutions, to enable
social learning processes, and to involve citizens
and stakeholders in science (Wiek et al. 2012).
Transdisciplinary research (TDR) is one
promising approach in this context, responding to
these critical aspects in a coherent way. One broad
denition of transdisci-
plinarity by Lang et al.
(2012, p.26) states that:
Transdisciplinarity is a reexive,
integrative, method-driven scienti-
c principle aiming at the
solution or transition of societal
problems and concurrently of
related scientic problems by
differentiating and integrating
knowledge from various scientic
and societal bodies of knowledge.
TDR comes in many
forms and includes, for
example, participatory action
research, practices that
support the integration of
indigenous/local knowledge
with western sciences,
collaborative adaptive
management, and recent
forms of citizen science
(Knapp et al. 2019). There
are differences between
European and US TDR
traditions; the former
includes both cross-disciplinarity and stakeholder
involvement, whereas the latter is more focused on
interdisciplinary research, which mainly involves
academics (Knapp et al. 2019). In a review on the
historical roots and various approaches of TDR,
ISSJ 0 © 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
2Therese Bennich et al.
Knapp et al. (2019) found that TDR projects usually
have three features in common:
answering the research question requires knowl-
edge inputs from multiple disciplines,
the process supports co-production of knowl-
edge, and
the solution-oriented outcome is useful for real
world problems.
Similarly, Lang et al. (2012) formulated a set of
principles for guiding an “ideal-typical” TDR pro-
cess, organised into three phases:
1. Joint problem framing and building of a collab-
orative research team.
2. Co-creation of solution-oriented and transfer-
able knowledge through participatory research.
3. Reintegration and application of the co-created
knowledge.
Despite the generalisable TDR features and princi-
ples mentioned above, TDR scholars emphasise the
context-specic nature of each TDR project, and
the lack of a “blueprint” approach(Lang et al. 2012;
Westberg and Polk 2016).
Solution-oriented approaches imply a differ-
ent role for the researcher than traditional research
methodologies (Wittmayer and Schäpke 2014).
While uncommon in the purely academic research
environment, TDR projects need to address key
issues of ownership, sustainability, power, and
action in the project space. Therefore, some pro-
posed roles for the researcher engaged in TDR
projects are change agent, knowledge broker,
reective scientist, self-reexive scientist and pro-
cess facilitator (ibid). In a study on success fac-
tors for 56 sustainability experiments in Europe
on local or regional levels, van der Heiligenberg
et al. (2017) state that stakeholder involvement is
the most important one. Other important factors are
close cooperation with local and regional networks,
integration with local/regional governmental poli-
cies, dissemination of learning experiences, and
the existence and ownership of a local or regional
vision of the future (ibid).
However, despite the promising core
principles and practices in TDR, there are a number
of challenges related to initiating, carrying out, and
following up on such research projects.1For exam-
ple, a challenge for sustainability TDR science is
“how can research and education institutions facil-
itate transdisciplinary research and education and
enable social learning?”, when the structure of tra-
ditional academic systems favours disciplinary and
intradisciplinary research over TDR approaches
(Miller et al. 2014, p.243). Research results are
frequently a priority over education or the need
for societal relevance and co-creation (European
project Social Innovation Community).2As a
result, TDR projects are often initiated in academic
environments that are siloed, where TDR projects
are not frequently carried out. Researchers in such
environments face institutional and organisational
barriers (e.g., funding, time constraints, siloed
expertise), but may also be personally reluctant to
leave the familiar role of the traditional researcher
to initiate TDR. Early-career researchers face
unique challenges in conducting TDR, mainly due
to their lack of experience and established position
within academia (Jaeger-Erben et al. 2018). Jaeger-
Erben et al. (2018) and Haider et al. (2016) outline
recommendations for how early-career sustainabil-
ity researchers can navigate such processes within
academic environments, and Søgaard Jørgensen
et al. (2019) highlight the intergenerational
and interdisciplinary perspectives that they can
contribute to global sustainability initiatives.
Of particular importance is the scoping phase,
where the research questions and the local con-
cerns need to come together in the denition of the
transdisciplinary projects’ aims and expected out-
comes. Lang et al. (2012) point out how insufcient
problem framing and unbalanced problem owner-
ship (i.e., between researchers and local actors) are
often challenges encountered in the rst phase of
the TDR process, and suggest conducting a prelim-
inary study in order to build problem awareness.
We argue that although the “scoping” component
of the TDR initiation phase is important because
it can facilitate a balanced problem-framing pro-
cess, it has not been adequately addressed by TDR
scholars. In the present paper, we respond to this
challenge by sharing our experience from setting
the basis for scoping for transdisciplinary research
projects at a local context. The guiding research
question is: how to scout and stimulate TDR sus-
tainability projects starting in a traditional, disci-
plinary research environment? The paper outlines
the approach taken and the lessons learned, in the
hope that it could help other researchers and prac-
titioners in setting up TDR projects. The novelty
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 3
lies in combining tools from system sciences, and
in providing a case study application, which is
often lacking in contributions to TDR methodology
(Woltersdorf et al. 2019). The paper is organised in
two sections. The rst section lays out the approach
we took in scoping for TDR projects for sustainabil-
ity, starting with insights on the context this work
developed in, giving an overview of the selected
TDR tools we applied, and showing the results of
applying those tools to our case study. The sec-
ond section discusses and reects on the ndings,
on challenges and success factors of the presented
approach, as well as on the generalisability for other
TDR projects on sustainability.
2. Approach to TDR scoping
2.1 Setting the stage
The results of this study grew out of a collabo-
rative effort by a team of early-career researchers
(PhD and masters students) at Stockholm Univer-
sity (SU) to organise a PhD course in transdisci-
plinary research for sustainability. This initiative
was based on the common interest in intercon-
nected sustainability issues that span across the
natural and social sciences, and often require co-
production of knowledge with “non-researchers”.
Due to a lack of learning opportunities for this type
of research at our university, we initiated and ran a
course consisting of a theoretical part and a practi-
cal part.
The theoretical part of the course (spring
semester 2018, 12 participants) included 19 semi-
nars. Lecturers were selected and invited based on
their experience in TDR and by snowballing meth-
ods among the participants and supporting senior
researchers. The literature-based seminars had a
twofold educational aim: on the one hand to act
as a learning platform (collaboratively identied
topics of interest included among others episte-
mology of TDR, stakeholder analysis, facilitation,
research funding for transdisciplinary projects, cit-
izen science); and on the other hand to act as an
acquaintance platform with transdisciplinary tools
and methodologies which could be used during the
applied eldwork part of the course.
The practical part of the course was designed
and implemented by seven of the course partici-
pants. It consisted of one week of eldwork with
the main aim of identifying TDR opportunities in
F 1.Location of the practical part of the TDR course
and case study in this paper: Navarino Environmental Obser-
vatory (NEO) in South West Messinia, Greece.
Messinia, Greece. In this region, the main eco-
nomic activities are agriculture (constituting the
main occupation for 44 per cent of the population
living in the area) and coastal tourism (the main
source of employment for 10 per cent of the popula-
tion) (GPC 2011). The agricultural sector is mainly
oriented towards olive groves. In fact, Messinia
has the biggest number of planted olive trees in
Greece (13,545,000), with most of the olive farms
using conventional farming practices (Berg et al.
2018). In 2010, the development and operation of
Costa Navarino, comprising several resorts and golf
courses, put Messinia on the global touristic map.
Since 2010, SU in collaboration with Greek
partners from the academia and the private sec-
tor has established the Navarino Environmental
Observatory (NEO),3a collaborative partnership
dedicated to research and education on climate
change and the environment in the Mediterranean
region. The eld station is located in South West
Messinia (Figure 1). NEO is a well-established ini-
tiative with a growing local and international net-
work contributing to a mix of academic outputs,
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
4Therese Bennich et al.
educational activities, and public outreach. One
example is the EU H2020 research and innovation
project COASTAL (Collaborative land-sea integra-
tion platform)4that started in 2018, with the aim
of improving coastal-rural synergy to foster rural
and coastal development while preserving the envi-
ronment. The establishment of NEO, along with
the increased tourism in the region, has triggered
discussions around sustainability among the local
population. We started from the assumption that
different stakeholders might hold different perspec-
tives on what sustainability in Messinia entails, and
since transdisciplinary research seeks to account
for diverse perspectives (Knapp et al. 2019), we
consider it highly relevant for the context of NEO
and its surrounding areas.
2.2 Tools for TDR scoping
2.2.1. Stakeholder identication
Adaptive co-learning between local stakeholders
and researchers is fundamental to building TDR
potential in relation to sustainable resource man-
agement and development (van den Heiligen-
berg et al. 2017). Local stakeholders in Messinia,
researchers at SU, and other NEO research partners
with previous and ongoing projects in the region
were identied according to the methods and prin-
ciples presented by Reed et al. (2009).
The identication of researchers that had
previously worked in the area was done: (1)
by screening the NEO publication database
(Navarino Environmental Observatory 2019);
(2) through a literature search in the SCOPUS
database (using the keywords Gialova, Yalova,
Messinia, Messenia, Peloponnese, Navarino, NEO
(Navarino Environmental Observatory)); and (3)
by consulting the NEO station manager.
The NEO station manager was a key infor-
mant also when it came to the identication of
local stakeholders.The initial sample provided by
the station manager was extended with stakeholders
identied from the literature and during the inter-
views with researchers. Since economic activity
plays a central role in shaping the development of
the region, as it provides local livelihoods and has
an impact on inland and coastal ecosystems (Granit
et al. 2017), one of the selection criteria for the local
stakeholders was their occupation, in an attempt
to cover the main socio-economic activities in the
area. Moreover, snowball sampling was applied in
each stakeholder interview to identify actors that
might have been overlooked in the initial selection.
In this way, the “science” of stakeholder identi-
cation was combined with the “art” of stakeholder
identication, such as the use of intuition and past
experience, as described by Colvin et al. (2016).
2.2.2. Interviews
A two-step semi-structured interview process was
employed to examine the interest of the iden-
tied stakeholders (researchers and local actors)
to engage in transdisciplinary research (Bryman
2008). The rst phase of interviewing researchers
took place in October 2018, before the practical
eldwork in Greece. The semi-structured interview
guide centred around three main themes: (a) their
background and information about the research that
they have conducted in the area; (b) their views
on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research;
and (c) the local ecosystem services (ESS) that are
important for their research (see Appendix 1). Most
of the interviews were conducted face to face at
the facilities of Stockholm University or via Skype.
In some cases, the interview guide was sent and a
written reply was received. The second step of the
interviews took place in Messinia during the eld-
work. A semi-structured interview guide was devel-
oped to explore the concerns of the local actors (see
Appendix 1). The guide was organised according to
two overarching themes (background information
and TDR potential) and included open-ended ques-
tions regarding the regional drivers of change, their
vision for the development of the region and ques-
tions that were specically developed in relation to
their occupation.
2.2.3. Causal loop diagrams
To describe and analyse the stakeholders’ perspec-
tive on ongoing local development dynamics and
their visions about the future of their sector (e.g.,
agriculture, tourism) and the Messinia region,
causal loop diagrams (CLDs) were developed
based on the outcomes from the interviews. CLDs
are a common tool for system analysis (Lane
2008; Morecroft 1982). The translation of the
interviews into the causal map structure followed
recommendations by Kim and Andersen (2012).
All students of our team participated in this process
as a group to ensure direct triangulation of analysts’
perspectives (Figure 2). The CLDs were simplied
by aggregating similarities, while maintaining
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 5
F 2.Field visit and interviews at the olive farm cooperative (left). Summarising the results after one of the eldwork days
(right) [Colour gure can be viewed at wileyonlinelibrary.com]
differences to balance understandability and
communication with preserving the complex
interlinked socio-environmental system dynamics.
The diagrams were used as a representation of the
information captured by the interviews, i.e., the
stakeholders’ perspectives on socio-economic and
environmental developments in the region. Further,
from the CLDs, we identied issues of concern
and gaps where knowledge or perspectives about
the system are lacking (Eden 2004).
2.2.4. Gap-mapping
To identify and illustrate how local needs and
research could be integrated in future TDR projects,
we combined our results into a “gap-map”. The
“gap-map” is a matrix showcasing gaps and over-
laps between the research that previously has been
(or could be) carried out, the research interests of
those engaged in this research, and the needs of
the local community. The matrix builds directly on
stakeholder identication, interviews and CLDs. It
is to be seen as a basis for discussion, and as a way
to improve understanding of what different disci-
plines can be added to an integrated sustainability
project aiming to address local needs with a TDR
approach.
2.3 Results: scoping for TDR potential in
Messinia
2.3.1. Overview of local stakeholders
In total, eight stakeholders from Messinia were
interviewed. Table 1 provides an overview of
the participants, structured according to McCall’s
(2005) intersectionality framework. The sectors
of food production and tourism which, as men-
tioned above, are the main economic activities
in the case study area, were well represented in
our stakeholder sample. The stakeholders providing
tourist services were located on the coast while
food producers were located more inland. The
scale of their activities varied, from being locally
rooted to more regionally oriented. Another key
area covered by our stakeholder sample is water
governance, with one of the interviewees repre-
senting the local water agency. All our stakehold-
ers were presently active at the time of the inter-
views, most of them owned the capital/assets they
were working with, and a majority were male.
Finally, while our sample covers key economic
activities in the area, it is not exhaustive. Some
actors that could have been included to a further
extent are, for example, consumers, public service
providers, and policy-makers. Since the area has
an important environmental value (Maneas et al.
2019) we would also have liked to interview envi-
ronmental managers, but at the time of our eld-
work, no such stakeholders were active in the
area.
In addition to the local stakeholders,
12 academic stakeholders with previous or
ongoing projects in Messinia were interviewed.
The academic stakeholders included both
master’s students and senior researchers, and
their research focus covers a range of topics
(Table 2).
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
6Therese Bennich et al.
TABLE 1. Overview of the Messinian stakeholders according to McCall’s (2005) intersectionality framework
Note. The symbols per column from left to right in order of appearance indicate: woman, man, coastal, inland, owner of the
assets/capital for the activities he/she is engaged with (hand with key), regional (map), local (pointer).
TABLE 2. Research focus in Messinia area and number of interviewed researchers per different research
activity In brackets the number of researchers we contacted
Research focus in Messinia area Number of interviewed researchers
Hydrology, water resources 4 (5)
Past climate variability 3(5)
Atmospheric composition 1 (1)
Geology 0(2)
Biodiversity, ecology, ecosystem services 3 (3)
Environmental management (social perspective) 1 (1)
2.3.2. Causal loop analysis of stakeholders’
systems perspective
Figure 3 captures the aggregated dynamics between
the main components of the socio-environmental
system in Messinia as perceived by the local
stakeholders and researchers interviewed. The
regional sustainability dynamics identied related
to seven distinctive sectors: tourism, agriculture,
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 7
F 3.Causal loop diagram (CLD) presenting the aggregated dynamics between the main components of the socio-
environmental system in Messinia as perceived by local stakeholders [Colour gure can be viewed at wileyonlinelibrary.com]
Note. In a CLD, arrows denote the nature of interaction between two variables. If an arrow from variable A to variable B has a
plus sign, then a change in variable A will lead to a change in the same direction in variable B, e.g., increase in infrastructure
causes an increase in accessibility. If the arrow has a minus sign, a change in variable A will lead to a change in the opposite
direction for variable B, e.g., an increase in infrastructure causes a decrease in quality of tourism. The causal connections between
two or more variables can create loops, meaning the nature of their interaction involves feedback and is not only linear. B stands
for a balancing loop and R stands for a reinforcing loop.
infrastructure and land use, economy, environment,
behaviour and mentality, and organisation and
management. We developed detailed CLDs per
sector, as well as one complete comprehensive
CLD that can be found in Appendix 2. The CLDs
of the identied sectors often showed more causal
links and feedback loops between them (Figure 3
and Appendix 2) than within them, meaning that the
socio-environmental system in Messinia is highly
connected across sectors and actors. Therefore,
sustainability projects need to consider the positive
and negative impacts they can have on connected
sectors. For example, a sense of place through
traditions and the agricultural landscape provides
economic opportunities in high quality tourism. In
addition to increased demand for local food, this
type of tourism raises local inhabitants’ awareness
to the importance of their region’s environmental
assets. Policies, legal enforcement, and regional
organisation of economic activities could boost
these positive feedback loops in creating a sustain-
able, desirable tourist development. Likewise, they
could boost innovative and responsible farming
practices and recover the attractiveness of farming
as a profession, which in turn can contribute to
high-quality tourist development in the region.
2.3.3. Gap-mapping
The main reason for creating a gap-map (Figure 4)
was to identify gaps and overlaps between research
in the area and local concerns. Most research in
the area has been conducted in collaboration with
NEO (Berg et al. 2018; Destouni and Prieto, 2018;
Finne et al. 2017; Katrantsiotis et al. 2019; Klein
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
8Therese Bennich et al.
F 4.Gap-map presenting TDR project potential for the Messinia region [Colour gure can be viewed at wileyonlineli-
brary.com]
Note. The horizontal axis displays research themes or disciplines. The vertical axis includes the local research needs, as identied
during our interviews with the actors in the region. “Overlap between researcher interest and local concern” is marked in yellow,
“Potential for future research” is marked in green and “Current or past research” is marked in blue.
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 9
et al. 2015; Krejci et al., 2018; Maneas et al.
2019). In order to bridge the gap of missing data
from that part of the world, NEO started with
basic research focusing on the elds of hydrol-
ogy (e.g., sea water intrusion into coastal aquifers),
atmospheric composition (e.g., aerosols and their
role to climate), geology and past climate variabil-
ity. This research is fundamental for understand-
ing the physical and natural dynamics in the area,
and the effects of climate change on the natural
environment and human activities in the Mediter-
ranean region. However, since the local stakehold-
ers interviewed were linked mainly to agriculture
and tourism (see CLDs in Figure 3 and Appendix
2), it was rather anticipated that these research
activities would not overlap much with the current
local concerns (as perceived by the stakeholders
interviewed), except from some research conducted
in the eld of “hydrology” (e.g., “hydrological fore-
cast”, marked as blue in Figure 4). For example,
“paleoclimate” and “atmospheric sciences” often
address problems at spatial and temporal scales
which are not directly relevant to local actors.
On the other hand, research initiatives, cov-
ering topics such as the effect of agriculture
on biodiversity and water resources, and the co-
management of ecosystem services in Natura 2000
areas, which demand an interdisciplinary research
approach and focus on a local level, had more over-
laps with local concerns. However, TDR is more
than an interdisciplinary approach – it is research
that is co-produced with stakeholders. While it is
not a panacea for all research elds, it is useful in
sustainability science because of its intrinsic nor-
mative goal to contribute with a positive, sustain-
able impact on society and environment.
From the gap-map we could identify TDR
project potential in the Messinia region by match-
ing the local concerns with relevant research elds
and approaches (marked green on the matrix, Fig-
ure 4). Some interesting topics that were raised by
stakeholders and could be inputs for future TDR
projects were “Interest in reducing environmental
footprint of tourist operations” and “Interest in par-
ticipating in research projects contributing to olive
farm improvements”. Since most of the local needs
(Figure 4) require an interdisciplinary approach,
another nding from this exercise was the perceived
need for social science research to address these
concerns. For example, the concern about the lack
of “modern technologies in agriculture and the atti-
tudes among youth and job decisions” would be
relevant to a number of disciplines, each provid-
ing useful tools and frameworks; agronomy (rural
development), hydrology (water resources manage-
ment), sociology/behavioural science (e.g., “what
factors affect the decision of young people to aban-
don farming?”), economics (changes in the labour
market and its implications). We also identied
overlap of specic research interests (based on our
interviews with 12 researchers) and local concerns
(marked in yellow in Figure 4). For example, one
of our researcher interviewees expressed interest in
conducting research on how olive mill by-products
affect the hydrology of the region, which matches a
sustainability concern expressed by a local stake-
holder. The difference between the yellow and
green intersections (Figure 4) is that the former
includes existing overlap between researcher and
local interviewees’ interests, whereas the latter
includes overlap between local concerns and what
we perceive as a potential contribution from aca-
demic disciplines, that could lead to a TDR project.
3. Discussion
3.1 TDR potential in Messinia
The parallel approach used to identify researchers’
interests and local stakeholders’ concerns around
the sustainable future in Messinia reveals insights
that can be used to foster local TDR projects.
Some of the research activities and interests iden-
tied in the gap-map address problems at spatial
and temporal scales which are not directly rele-
vant to local actors, for example “paleoclimate” and
“atmospheric sciences”, and thus are difcult to be
identied and recognised by them. For such scien-
tic elds and study topics, it is difcult to engage
stakeholders in TDR projects. Further, the gap-map
shows that past research has focused exclusively on
natural science research, while most stakeholders´
interests concern socio-economic disciplines (e.g.,
economics and behavioural sciences). Although
we represented the research topics in the conven-
tional disciplinary compartments, the CLD high-
lights how sectors and societal domains are highly
interconnected and that there is a growing need for
interdisciplinary approaches. Therefore, although
we connected local concerns with conventional dis-
ciplines in the gap-map, the rst important insight is
that, beyond more research being needed, a higher
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
10 Therese Bennich et al.
integration of disciplines is also needed to produce
more problem-oriented research. Interdisciplinary
research can also be a rst step for researchers to
engage with local problems before moving beyond
academia to embrace transdisciplinarity.
In fact, current local research at NEO is
already exploring socio-environmental topics
related to farming practices in agriculture (Berg
et al. 2018; Myers et al. 2019), the impact of
tourism in water resources (Klein et al., 2015), the
impact of land use change and human activities and
interventions on water resources and biodiversity
of Natura 2000 sites (Maneas et al. 2019; Manzoni
et al. 2019), and how to improve coastal-rural
synergies to foster rural and coastal development
while preserving the environment (COASTAL
2018).
These studies have been crucial to build a net-
work of local actors and researchers, bringing up
the necessity of transdisciplinarity and initiating the
collaborative process that led to this study.
The need to expand the research focus to
social sciences might not seem surprising since the
NEO core research has developed from a collab-
oration between natural scientists. But this is not
necessarily always the case. In other regions, it
could be measurements for quantitative data that
are missing. For example, in a number of TDR
with indigenous communities in northern Sweden,
with both strong social and natural science compo-
nents (summarised in: Klöcker Larsen et al. 2016;
Klöcker Larsen et al. 2020), further advancements
have been impossible in some respects as there
is a lack of available natural science-data. More
specically, Rosqvist et al. (in preparation) demon-
strated how weather data from current meteorolog-
ical stations have been placed in irrelevant loca-
tions for traditional indigenous land use. The TDR
research efforts by Rosqvist et al. (in preparation)
with local communities have now resulted in new
locations of weather stations to be used in natural
resource management. These two opposing starting
points (quantitative vs. qualitative data availability
and research experience) indicate that one is not
necessarily better equipped to initiate TDR projects
than the other. However, an interdisciplinary collab-
oration between the social and natural sciences are
necessary for continued, successful TDR projects.
The outcome of this work could be used to
inform the next research opportunities at NEO and
in the Messinia region; however, a surprising nd-
ing suggests that research community collabora-
tions can go beyond “more research is needed”, and
highlights the importance of other kinds of support
that researchers can provide, such as specic train-
ing (e.g., extension services to foster the adoption
of sustainable agricultural practices), discussion
forums that bring together diverse stakeholders,
and networking opportunities. Although research is
necessary to identify leverage points, analyse the
system dynamics, and provide policy recommenda-
tions, it is not always sufcient to address complex
sustainability issues. The intensication of inland
human activities to meet societal demands, com-
bined with the lack of understanding of how ecosys-
tems are linked (e.g., key ows of water, sediment,
pollutants, biota and ecosystem services) could lead
to the degradation of ecosystems along a continuum
from source to sea (Granit et al. 2017), and the
loss of ecosystem services. However, governance
and management arrangements are not well suited
to address the ows and ensure sustainability and
resilience of the combined source-to-sea systems
(Granit et al. 2017). Local, regional and national
policy makers can use the insights from the gap-
map to promote and subsidise sustainability initia-
tives involving both research and practice. Partic-
ularly useful in this direction is the creation of a
forum for local actors to meet and discuss, identify-
ing synergies and raising concerns on sustainability
issues. This could, for example, address one of the
overlapping topics, “Environmental awareness and
human behaviour (e.g., water use, plastic waste)”.
These kinds of fora, although not strictly relevant
to research, could sensitise the local community to
environmental sustainability concerns (e.g., plas-
tic pollution) and generate acquaintance and trust
between researchers and locals, thus building the
necessary space for collaboration.
For example, the implementation of
COASTAL EU project gave the opportunity to
researchers and actors from different sectors
(i.e., agriculture, shing, local industry, tourism
and public sectors) to meet and discuss land-
sea interactions for the rst time (COASTAL
2018). The process was highly appreciated by all
participants, indicating that such structures could
create space for engagement and collaboration
(Maneas et al. 2020). To that end, the concept of
ESS, could provide the links between nature and
people (Diaz et al. 2015). ESS are the benets
of the environment to the society (MEA, 2005),
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 11
and an ESS assessment could further foster the
communication between science-policy-society by
leveraging the value of ESS provided by nature
(wetlands, agricultural land, coasts, etc.) to create a
common understanding between these three pillars.
3.2 Reections on challenges and
success factors from the project
scoping
In this section we briey reect on the strengths and
weaknesses of the self-reexive approach to TDR
scoping undertaken in the Messinia case study. Suc-
cess factors included an interdisciplinary motivated
team and institutional support. The main challenges
include a language barrier, time constraints and the
unstructured nature of the collaboration in the team.
Both a strong learning motivation and inter-
disciplinary, systems-thinking backgrounds con-
tributed to what we consider to be a successful
interdisciplinary teamwork. As mentioned in sec-
tion 2.1, the research project was initiated through
a self-driven course on TDR at Stockholm Univer-
sity, and there was a shared interest in exploring the
dimensions of transdisciplinary research and how
it can be applied in the context of sustainability
science. Further, we were all familiar with inter-
disciplinary collaborations from our professional
and/or early academic environments, an increas-
ingly common characteristic of early-career sus-
tainability scholars (Haider et al. 2018). Experience
in interdisciplinary working environments devel-
ops a set of competences that enable team work
(Arnold and Wade 2015). We all shared an under-
standing of systems-thinking theory (as described
by Meadows 2008). Wiek et al. (2011) argue
that systems-thinking competence is very useful
for addressing sustainability issues, “across differ-
ent domains (society, environment, economy, etc.)
and across different scales (local to global)” (ibid,
p.207).
Secondly, broad institutional support from
both SU and NEO contributed to the successful case
study for TDR scoping in Messinia. This was a
clear benet compared to many other TDR projects,
which often experience difculties in receiving sup-
port from their academic institutions (Gaziulusoy
et al. 2016; Miller et al. 2014). Departmental (SU)
support was crucial for the initiation of the TDR
course. It included nancial resources, available
infrastructure, administrative support, and guidance
from senior researchers for its preparation, on-site
eld work costs, and expert lectures. The NEO-
network researchers and the local stakeholders in
Messinia were collaborative in sharing their experi-
ences. Because the gatekeeper was part of the TDR
scoping team, the stakeholder identication-contact
process was easy and time efcient, stakeholder
fatigue could be avoided, and there was a noticeable
trust relationship between interviewees and inter-
viewers. Since this scoping case study was part
of bigger ongoing research and sustainability pro-
cesses at NEO, we could build on previous work,
aspire to contribute to future endeavours, and shift
the focus from immediate results to the process of
TDR scoping.
The challenges we faced were mostly related
to the eldwork in Greece. The scoping process
could have beneted from a larger number of
perspectives being represented. Language barriers
posed a challenge to most members of the team.
Further, time constraints (one week for eld appli-
cation) limited the number of stakeholder inter-
views we were able to carry out. Time constraints
also limited the way of interacting with stakehold-
ers to semi-structured interviews. With more time,
we would have experimented with other stake-
holder interaction methods such as focus groups,
group model building, and photo-voice (Wang and
Burris 1997).
Finally, some success factors of our interdisci-
plinary, non-hierarchical team can also be identied
as challenges (Nancarrow et al. 2013). For exam-
ple, the collaborative non-structured nature of our
project, although enriching, was often inefcient,
since none of the team members was solely working
on this project. Further, having the gatekeeper as
part of our team limited the range of stakeholders to
the ones in his network. Moreover, the gatekeeper’s
previous knowledge and experience in the area
could be a bias in the interpretation of the interviews
and the local system. It is important to mention that
our experience is only from the scoping step, and
as a result our challenges do not include the typical
challenges faced by TDR.
3.3 Generalised approach to scoping for
TDR sustainability projects
Despite the importance of and dependency on the
local context in any TDR project, we argue that the
steps taken above (section 2.2 “Selected tools”) are
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
12 Therese Bennich et al.
F 5.Generalised approach to scoping local transdisciplinary research potential within disciplinary research organisations
[Colour gure can be viewed at wileyonlinelibrary.com]
Note. The proposed step and its goals, useful methodological references, potential alternative tools for this step, and identied
success factors for that step.
generalisable to other contexts where disciplinary-
organised research or project organisations would
like to initiate local TDR sustainability projects.
Figure 5 presents the generalisable approach to
scoping for transdisciplinary research potential for
sustainability projects from a systems perspective.
It describes the goal(s) of each step, indicates some
of the main methodological references we found
very helpful in each step, provides alternative tools
for variations to our method, and important success
factors of each step. The arrows in the gure indi-
cate that the proposed approach to identify TDR
potential is not a linear stepwise process. Reec-
tion in each step contributes to previous steps by
revising or expanding them.
The proposed approach stresses and inte-
grates the importance of system’s understanding for
TDR projects on sustainability in two ways. First,
“local sustainability concerns” in this approach
is dened as a problem that crosses the ecolog-
ical, economic and social pillars of sustainabil-
ity. The CLD step of the approach showed that
the socio-ecological system in Messinia is highly
connected across sectors and actors, and that sus-
tainability projects and actors need to consider
the positive and negative impacts of their efforts
on connected sectors. To contribute to sustainable
development/transformation at the local level, it is
important to understand and harness the reinforc-
ing power of positive feedback loops and balancing
power of negative feedback loops, disclosed by the
CLDs.
Secondly, it considers the (idea for a) TDR
project as part of the system of local change
and of the system of the research organisation
involved. It acknowledges all previous, ongoing
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 13
and potential future research at the organisation
valuable to a local TDR project to ensure that
no-one is left behind; i.e., all interest in TDR
engagement is welcomed and incorporated, and no
existing project work or ideas are overridden by
TDR initiation efforts. The approach provides an
opportunity for co-learning about and co-initiation
of TDR sustainability projects, adjusted to efforts
that are already ongoing locally and at the research
organisation. It ensures that you as a project
participant reect on your contribution from a
systems perspective. As a project participant, you
happen to be in a specic place at a specic time:
people and projects came before you and people
will come after you. To reect on your position
within the system of a research organisation
or sustainability project allows you to build on
previous work, and to create the best possibilities
for successful, continued projects. We propose this
TDR scoping approach mainly for research organi-
sations interested in initiating transdisciplinary sus-
tainability projects without any transdisciplinary
background, network, lab, or expertise to build
upon.
4. Conclusion
We presented a novel approach to scoping for
transdisciplinary research by reecting on a local
project conducted in Messinia (Greece). A set
of three types of characteristics were identied
as enabling conditions for the initiation of
transdisciplinary research projects in general:
(a) a team composition with mixed appropriate
skills and shared visions; (b) institutional support
from university departments; (c) a gate-keeper to
key stakeholders as part of the research group.
The suggested methodological approach provides
generalised steps for scoping for transdisciplinary
research potential concerning sustainability issues
in traditional academic organisations. A corner-
stone in our approach was a systems understanding,
where stakeholder identication, interviews, causal
loop diagramming and gap-mapping were useful
tools. Furthermore, we suggest that research
groups aiming to pursue transdisciplinary research
projects should consider the initiation of such
projects a component of long-term transformational
change, which has implications for the way the
methodology is applied.
As early-career researchers in a traditional
academic setting, we took the leap to broaden
our research and understanding. We hope that
more academics like us will be inspired to do the
same.
Appendix 1: Semi-structured
interview guides researcher and
local stakeholders
A. Researcher stakeholder - interview
guide
Theme: background
Can you describe your eld/area of working?
How would you describe this region? What do
you see there, context/research potential?
What type of research have you been conduct-
ing at NEO/Greece?
What were your research questions?
What were your methods?
What was your underlying motivation (what
type of problems did you want to address, knowl-
edge gaps, why)?
Why the specic context of NEO?
Does your research directly or indirectly ben-
et the local community, and if yes, in what ways?
Theme: TDR potential
Would more perspectives be benecial for
your research, do you see any potential for interdis-
ciplinary/transdisciplinary research connected to
your work?
Why/why not?
Are you already working in this direction, and
if so, how?
What are the hindrances/barriers you expe-
rience in regards to conducting more ID/TD
research?
In your research, are you interacting with local
actors, why/why not?
Theme: ecosystem services
Please name a few ESS (denition: the ben-
ets humans obtain from the ecosystem, (MEA,
2005)) that you recognise in the region.
From the ESS you identied, do you see any
drivers that affect the provision of the ES or the
demand for that service?
(From the ESS you identied, which one is
most important for you specically?)
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
14 Therese Bennich et al.
B. Local stakeholder - interview guide
Introduce ourselves:
Early-career researchers from Stockholm Uni-
versity, trying to identify research needed by locals,
what are the needs, making the research station
more useful for the locals
Theme: background
Describe your area of working. What do you
do here? What did you do before, what happened
here before?
Natural resources use/management and land
use composition (supplies, demands, worries, limi-
tations, contestations)
(Perception of) underlying drivers (why)?
How does every type of actor interact and
drive changes?
Who do you collaborate with, where do you
turn to if you need something, who do you sell to?
(dependence on other actors or drivers)
What is driving these changes?
Why do they use the resources/land as they are
doing it now?
Who has the power/inuence to change?
Who should have the power?
Theme: TDR potential
Future view/vision of the area
What kind of research/knowledge is missing
in your opinion?
Is there any project you would like to test? Be
specic about your needs
Willingness/potential to cooperate in research
If we have valuable information according to
your identied needs, how would you like us to
communicate these with you, any suggestions or
ideas, how can you create a good network, a net-
work of trust?
Snowballing: other interesting actors for envi-
ronmental/resources users/actors, alternative actors
such as young women
Round up
Tell them we will provide them with our out-
comes afterwards
If you have any ideas or comments on our
conversation later, you can always contact us or
Giorgos
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 15
Appendix 2: Complete causal
loop diagram
F 6.Complete causal loop diagram [Colour gure can be viewed at wileyonlinelibrary.com]
Note. The dashed lines indicate causal link that we as researchers added to show possible extra causal links not mentioned by
the local perspectives. The different colours depict the different sectors. The same CLD is split up below in six of the identied
sectors to increase understanding and transparency of the ndings. See Figure 3 on how to read a CLD.
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
16 Therese Bennich et al.
Notes
*We are very thankful to Håkan
Berg who has been of continuous
support to this work with his
enthusiasm for the project and his
good advice. We are also grateful to
all the lecturers volunteering on the
developed TDR course. Further, we
are thankful to the organisations
who supported different parts of this
project: NEO, the Bolin Centre, the
Environment and Resource
Dynamics (ERD) research group at
the Department of Physical
Geography (SU), and the Stockholm
Resilience Centre (SRC). We would
also like to acknowledge the
research groups we as authors come
from (ERD and SRC), which have
tried to create a “safe operating
space” for transdisciplinary
research. In a transformational
change such environments could be
an important step in preparing for
change. Lastly, we would like to
thank both reviewers for their
insightful comments and
constructive feedback.
1.In spite of the challenges in
conducting TDR, academic
initiatives and innovations to
overcome them also exist, such as
the TD-net (Swiss Academies of
Arts and Sciences,
www.transdisciplinarity.ch), or
social innovation labs at universities
that have been initiated globally
(European project Social Innovation
Community, www.siceurope.eu/).
2.More information about the
European project Social Innovation
Community eld station can be
found at www.siceurope.eu.
3.More information about the
NEO eld station can be found at
www.navarinoneo.gr.
4.More information about the
COASTAL project can be found at
www.h2020-coastal.eu.
References
A, R.D. and W J.P., 2015.
Denition of systems thinking: a
systems approach. Procedia computer
science, 44, 669–678.
B, H., M, G. and S
E, A., 2018. A comparison
between organic and conventional
olive farming in Messenia, Greece.
Horticulturae, 4, 15.
B, A., 2008. Social research
methods (3rd ed). New York: Oxford
University Press.
COASTAL (C
L-S I P).
European Union’s H2020 Research
and Innovation Programme under
Grant Agreement No 773782. [online].
Available at: https://h2020-coastal.eu/
[last accessed 3 February 2019].
C, R.M., W, G.B. and L,
J., 2016. Approaches to identifying
stakeholders in environmental
management: insights from
practitioners to go beyond the “usual
suspects”. Land use policy, 52,
266–276.
D G. and P, C., 2018.
Robust assessment of uncertain
freshwater changes: the case of Greece
with large irrigation – and
climate-driven runoff decrease. Wat er,
10 (11), 1645
D, S., D, S., C, J.,
J, C., L, M., A, N.,
L, A. et al., 2015. The
IPBES conceptual framework –
connecting nature and people. Current
opinion in environmental
sustainability, 14, 1–16. https://doi.
org/10.1016/j.cosust.2014.11.002.
E, C., 2004. Analyzing cognitive
maps to help structure issues or
problems. European journal of
operational research, 159 (3),
673–686.
F, M., H, K., S,
C.-C., H, H.-M., B, M. and
S, S., 2017. Late Bronze Age
climate change and the destruction of
the Mycenaean Palace of Nestor at
Pylos. PLoS ONE, 12 (12), e0189447.
G, A.I., R, C.,
MG, S., C, P. and
T, P., 2016. Identifying and
addressing challenges faced by
transdisciplinary research teams in
climate change research, Journal of
cleaner production, 123, 55–64.
G, J., L L, B., O, S.,
T, A., N, S. and
C, T.J., 2017. A conceptual
framework for governing and
managing key ows in a source-to-sea
continuum: a STAP advisory
document. Global Environment
Facility, Washington, D.C.
H, L.J., H-S, J.,
G, M., G, J., H,
M., M, V.A., M, M.,
M, A., O, D., S, C.
and S, H., 2018. The
undisciplinary journey: early-career
perspectives in sustainability science.
Sustainability science, 13, 191–204.
J-, M., K, J.,
S, M., V, C.,
A, C., G, A., , K.,
L, S., S, T., S,
B., -G, S. and
W, J., 2018. Building capacities
for transdisciplinary research:
challenges and recommendations for
early-career researchers. GAIA, 27,
379–386.
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Scoping for TDR projects for sustainability 17
K, C., N, E.,
S, R., F, M.,
W, W., H, M.,
A, P. and W S.,
2019. Climate changes in the eastern
Mediterranean over the last 5000 years
and their links to the high-latitude
atmospheric patterns and Asian
monsoons. Global and planetary
change, 175, 36–51.
K, H. and A, D.F., 2012.
Building condence in causal maps
generated from purposive text data:
mapping transcripts of the Federal
Reserve. System dynamics review,28
(4), 311–328.
K, J., E, K., W, M.T.
and L, S.W., 2015. Modelling
potential water resource impacts of
Mediterranean tourism in a changing
climate. Environmental modeling and
assessment, 20 (2), 117–128.
K L, R., S, A.,
S, M., V, J., A,
M., K, M., L, R.,
N, J., R, K., S,
P., S, S., S, J.,
W-K, J. and Ö, C.,
2020. Omtvistade landskap –
navigering mellan konkurrerande
markanvändning och kumulativa
effekter (CO-LAND). Rapport 6908.
Naturvårdsverket, Stockholm.
K L, R.K., R, K.,
S, P., S, A.,
S, M., W-K, J.,
S, S., Ö, C. and
B, Y., 2016. Kumulativa effekter
av exploateringar på renskötseln
Kumulativa effekter av exploateringar
på renskötseln – vad behöver göras
inom tillståndsprocesser? Rapport
6722. Naturvårdsverket, Stockholm.
ISBN 9789162067229.
K, C.N., R, R.S.,
F-G, M.E., K,
J.A. and G, K.A., 2019. Placing
transdisciplinarity in context: a review
of approaches to connect scholars,
society and action. Sustainability,11
(18), 4899.
K, R., T, P., F, E.,
G, E., K, N.,
M, N., H, T.,
M, G. and H, H.-C.,
2018. Atmospheric aerosol
observations at Navarino
Environmental Observatory (NEO),
Greece. 4th ACTRIS-2 general meeting
in Napio, 17–19 April 2018.
L, D.C., 2008. The emergence and
use of diagramming in system
dynamics: a critical account. Systems
research and behavioral science,25
(1), 3–23.
L, D. J., W, A., B,
M., S, M., M, P.,
M, P., S, M. and T,
C.J., 2012. Transdisciplinary research
in sustainability science: practice,
principles, and challenges.
Sustainability science, 7 (1), 25–43.
L, R., 2017. Editorial
overview: how to promote
transdisciplinary, evidence-based
sustainability solutions? Current
opinion in environmental
sustainability. 29: xii, 29.–xv.
M, G., M, E.,
B, D., B, H. and
M, S., 2019. Anthropogenic
changes in a Mediterranean coastal
wetland during the last century – the
case of Gialova Lagoon, Messinia,
Greece. Wate r , 11, 350.
M G., K E., B H.,
G A., K A. and
T R., 2020. Stakeholder inclusion
in a Greek governance context (in
preparation).
M, S., M, G., S,
A., P, B.E., D, G.
and L, S.W., 2019. Understanding
coastal wetland conditions and futures
by closing their hydrologic balance:
the case of Gialova Lagoon, Greece.
Hydrology and earth system sciences
discussions (August), 1–28. https:
//doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-382.
MC, L., 2005. The complexity of
intersectionality. Signs: journal of
womenincultureandsociety,30(3),
1771–1800.
M, D.H., 2008. Thinking in
systems: a primer. White River
Junction, VT: Chelsea Green
Publishing.
M E
A, 2005. Ecosystems and
human well-being: synthesis.
Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN
1-59726-040-1.
M, T.R., W, A., S,
D., R, J., O, L.,
K, D. and L, D., 2014.
The future of sustainability science: a
solutions-oriented research agenda.
Sustainability science, 9 (2), 239–246.
M, J.D.W., 1982. A critical
review of diagraming tools for
conceptualizing feedback system
models. Dynamica, 8 (1), 20–28.
M, D., B, H. and M, G.
2019. Comparing the soundscapes of
organic and conventional olive groves:
a potential method for bird diversity
monitoring. Ecological indicators,
103, 642–649.
N A.B., A, S., S,
T., E, P. and R, A., 2013.
Ten principles of good
interdisciplinary team work. Human
resources for health, 10, 11–19.
N E
O, 2019. Publications. List
of Navarino Environmental
Observatory: a pioneer cooperation
between the academia and the private
sector. [online]. Available at:
www.navarinoneo.se/publications-
2019 [last accessed 15 July 2020].
R, M.S., G, A., D, N.,
P, H., H, K.,
M, J., P, C., Q, C.H.
and S, L.C., 2009. Who’s in
and why? A typology of stakeholder
analysis methods for natural resource
management. Journal of environmental
management, 90 (5), 1933–1949.
R, G., I, N. and E,
P. (forthcoming). Impacts of climate
warming on reindeer husbandry
demand new land use strategies.
(Manuscript submitted for
publication.)
S J, P., E, C.J.,
C G, L.,
H, A.C., L, G.S.,
M, H., P, J.
and M, N., 2019. Building
urgent intergenerational bridges:
assessing early career researcher
integration in global sustainability
initiatives. Current opinion in
environmental sustainability, 39,
153–159.
S I C,
2019. Wanted: transformative ideas
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
18 Therese Bennich et al.
and practices in science and research.
[online]. Available at: https://www.
siceurope.eu/network/academia-led-
innovation/wanted-transformative-
ideas-and-practices-science- and-
research?alt_path=node/1408 [last
accessed 14 December 2019].
S I C,
2019. Academia-led innovation.
[online]. Available at:
https://www.siceurope.eu/network/
academia-led-innovation [last
accessed 15 December 2019].
S.. 2020. 2011
Population-Housing Census. ELSTAT.
[online]. Available at:
https://www.statistics.gr/en/2011-
census-pop-hous [last accessed 13 July
2020].
S A  A 
S, 2020. About Td-Net.
[online]. Available at:
http://www.transdisciplinarity.ch/en/
td-net/Ueber-td-net.html [last accessed
15 July 2020].
UN G A, 2015.
Transforming our world: the 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A/RES/70/1. https://doi.org/10.1891/
9780826190123.ap02.
van  H, H.A.,
H, G.J., H, M.P. and
van O, F.G., 2017. A habitat for
sustainability experiments: success
factors for innovations in their local
and regional contexts. Journal of
cleaner production, 169, 204–215.
W, C. and B, M.A., 1997.
Photovoice: concept, methodology,
and use for participatory needs
assessment. Health education &
behaviour, 24 (3), 369–387. http://doi.
org/10.1177/109019819702400309.
W, L. and P, M., 2016.
The role of learning in
transdisciplinary research: moving
from a normative concept to an
analytical tool through a
practice-based approach. Sustainability
science, 11 (3), 385–397.
W, A., N, B., S-RIES,
P., B, F.S. and F, F., 2012.
From complex systems analysis to
transformational change: a
comparative appraisal of sustainability
science projects. Sustainability
science, 7 (1), 5–24.
W, A., W, L. and
R, C.L., 2011. Key
competencies in sustainability: a
reference framework for academic
program development. Sustainability
science, 6, 203–218.
W, J.M. and S, N.,
2014. Action, research and
participation: roles of researchers in
sustainability transitions.
Sustainability science, 9 (4), 483–496.
© 2020 The Authors. International Social Science Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
... Depending on the spatial context the TD project is operating in, it might also be possible to gain a first impression via an analysis of media articles during the project duration. The first step might be to build on methods such as the Causal Loop Diagram (CLD) and Gap-mapping, as demonstrated by Bennich et al. (2020). CLD is a diagramming method employed in system dynamics (c.f. ...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past decade, transdisciplinary research has been faced with increasing demands by research policy and funding bodies to make its contribution to dealing with complex societal problems more transparent. In the literature, there is a range of methodological attempts to trace and describe the effects of transdisciplinary research, but these are characterized by inconsistent definitions regarding the scope and different forms of effects. This article aims to systematize the proposed categories and introduces a heuristic that can be used as a tool to sensitize researchers to intended effects ex ante and throughout the research process, as well as to reflect on the achieved effects ex post. The heuristic includes the temporal and spatial dimension of occurring effects (first-, second- and third-order) and characterizes possible forms of effects. It is validated and differentiated based on a multi-method empirical study involving 16 completed transdisciplinary research projects in different thematic areas. We propose a differentiation of frequently used categories, such as ‘learning effects’, and operationalize second- and third-order effects with the aim of ensuring a more consistent use of terminology in the transdisciplinary research community. We also specify methodical steps for a facilitated self-reflective application of the tool ex ante, supporting the research process, or ex post.
... Therefore, bridging a systems view, ideally derived in an inter-and transdisciplinary setting (Bennich et al. 2020), with traditional risk and sustainability assessments may support a consistent selection of indicators for 'water scarcity-water reuse' (WS-WR) situations. Insights on the types of indicators can show representation issues, e.g., of the dimensions of sustainability (e.g., Strezov et al. 2017;Oliveira Neto et al. 2018). ...
Article
Full-text available
One key challenge of water resources management is the identification and processing of the information necessary for decision-making. This article aims to provide avenues for translating a ‘water scarcity–water reuse’ (WS–WR) situation into an information system. It is dedicated to supporting an integrated assessment in decision-making with the final goal of optimising water scarcity risk reduction and water reuse sustainability. The approach combines the following two strands: (1) specific interpretation of systems thinking and (2) systemic characterisation and interlinkage of indicators. The result is an analytical concept that translates the WS–WR situation into an information system consisting of two structured components, a multi-layer (ML) and a lane-based (LB) approach. While the multi-layer approach supports the description of the elements of the biophysical and information systems such as endpoints and descriptors, respectively, the lane-based approach aids in understanding the importance of indicators within the entire system and their distribution across risk and sustainability realms. The findings from a generic exemplification of the analytical concept depict the feasibility of identifying system-based endpoints representing the WS–WR situation and their translation via descriptors to an interlinked indicator set to jointly assess water scarcity risk and sustainability of the water reuse measures. Therefore, this analytical concept supports addressing the water resources management information challenge via a structured representation of the system’s complexity and the quantification and visualisation of interlinkages between the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of water scarcity risk and water reuse sustainability.
... Our aim was to record and itemize the full range of benefits provided by the regional wetland ecosystem services (WES). The authors' previous research on sustainability issues in the same context [37,41,[49][50][51], informal discussions with local people and a review of WES literature [52,53] were used to collect a list of WES, which was later revised and reduced into a manageable and comprehensive set of items (Q-set) that the participants would rank during the rank-ordering exercise. Pilot interviews were conducted to test the final list of the 25 WES, which resulted in the refinement of the description of the WES. ...
Article
Full-text available
People perceive the importance of benefits from ecosystem services in different ways, depending on their values, beliefs, and needs. Acknowledging and integrating this diversity into decision-making processes can support informed natural resource management. Our empirical study unpicks the multiple ways stakeholder groups perceive the benefits derived from wetland ecosystem services (WES) in the area surrounding the “Gialova” coastal wetland in Messenia, Greece. The inhabitants from this region benefit from a range of WES, and most livelihoods are closely linked to agriculture and tourism. We aim to understand the patterns in commonly held stakeholder views on WES using “Q methodology”, a participatory mixed-methods approach. We identified five distinct perspectives on WES from a sample of 32 stakeholders. Alongside diverse perceptions of the relative importance of different WES, we observed a range of explanations of why certain WES are important and analyzed these through the lens of “value pluralism”. This identified tension between relational and instrumental values. Such analyses move beyond ecosystem service identification towards an understanding of value justifications and conflicts, and can support the deliberation of conflicted views, and policy design in alignment with people’s values.
Article
Full-text available
The vaccine equity crisis has an extra element that makes it crucial for our capacity to tackle future major societal challenges. Unlike most of these, including the climate one, the current pandemic causes major damage that is directly observable in the very short term, that is, within the political cycle of the incumbent policymakers. If not even this kind of crisis with directly observable damage is able to influence the incentive structure of policymakers and lead to the adoption of timely and effective measures, there is no reason to expect that this would ever happen for crises whose effects largely materialize in future political cycles. As a consequence, if we fail to tackle this particular crisis effectively now, we are creating an enormous credibility problem for future crises that could seriously undermine our capacity to reach binding agreements in the future.
Article
Full-text available
Complex sustainability problems (e.g., climate change) are challenging to understand and manage, leading to an increase in approaches that connect scholars to society and research to action (collaborative approaches). The transdisciplinary approach (TDA) represents one such approach. While TDA is new to many, there are several prior collaborative approaches including collaborative adaptive management, knowledge integration, participatory action research, and indigenous/local knowledge. Other contemporary and parallel approaches include citizen science, translational science, evidence-based practice, and knowledge with action. The varied disciplinary roots and problem areas contribute to a lack of interaction among these parallel but distinct approaches, and among the scholars and stakeholders who practice them. In this paper, we consider the connections, complementarities and contradictions among these distinct but related collaborative approaches. This review offers insights into the interaction between science and practice, including the importance of social processes and recognition of different ways of knowing, as well as how to conduct collaborative approaches on a variety of scales and think about how to generalize findings. The review suggests a need to rethink roles and relationships in the process of knowledge co-creation, both extending the roles of researchers and practitioners, creating new hybrid roles for “pracademics”, and placing greater awareness on issues of power.
Article
Full-text available
Coastal wetlands and lagoons are under pressure due to competing demands for freshwater resources and climatic changes, which may increase salinity and cause loss of ecological functions. These pressures are particularly high in Mediterranean regions with high evaporative demand compared to precipitation. To manage such wetlands and maximize their provision of ecosystem services, their hydrologic balance must be quantified. However, multiple channels, diffuse surface water exchanges, and diverse groundwater pathways complicate the quantification of different water balance components. To overcome this difficulty, we developed a mass balance approach based on coupled water and salt balance equations to estimate currently unknown water exchange fluxes through the Gialova lagoon, SW Peloponnese, Greece. Our approach facilitates quantification of both saline and freshwater exchange fluxes, using measured precipitation, water depth and salinity, and estimated evaporation rates over a study period of two years (2016–2017). While water exchanges were dominated by evaporation and saline water inputs from the sea during the summer, precipitation and freshwater inputs were more important during the winter. About 40 % and 60 % of the freshwater inputs were from precipitation and lateral freshwater flows, respectively. Approximately 70 % of the outputs was due to evaporation, with the remaining 30 % being water flow from the lagoon to the sea. Under future drier and warmer conditions, salinity in the lagoon is expected to increase, unless freshwater inputs are enhanced by restoring hydrologic connectivity between the lagoon and the surrounding freshwater bodies. This restoration strategy would be fundamental to stabilize the current wide seasonal fluctuations in salinity and maintain ecosystem functionality, but could be challenging to implement due to expected reductions in water availability in the freshwater bodies supporting the lagoon.
Article
Full-text available
Human interventions during the last 70 years have altered the characteristics of the Gialova Lagoon, a coastal wetland that is part of a wider Natura 2000 site. In this study, we explore how human interventions and climate altered the wetland’s hydrological conditions and habitats, leading to changing wetland functions over time. Our interpretations are based on a mixed methodological approach combining conceptual hydrologic models, analysis of aerial photographs, local knowledge, field observations, and GIS (Geographic Information System) analyses. The results show that the combined effects of human interventions and climate have led to increased salinity in the wetland over time. As a result, the fresh and brackish water marshes have gradually been turned into open water or replaced by halophytic vegetation with profound ecological implications. Furthermore, current human activities inside the Natura 2000 area and in the surrounding areas could further impact on the water quantity and quality in the wetland, and on its sensitive ecosystems. We suggest that a more holistic understanding of the broader socio-ecological system is needed to understand the dynamics of the wetland and to achieve sustainable long-term management and conservation strategies.
Article
Full-text available
While transdisciplinarity offers a way to tackle complex social-ecological challenges, transdisciplinary research is a challenging task in itself. The integration of research methods across academic disciplines, the collaboration between researchers and practitioners, and the need to balance societal and disciplinary academic impacts pose many difficulties even to experienced applied scientists and even more so to early-career researchers. Young scholars face particular problems, given their lack of longer-term experience and their still fragile position within academia. Drawing on existing literature, an early-career researcher workshop, and our own experience as junior research group leaders, we discuss specific challenges and respective solution strategies of transdisciplinary research within the context of sustainability.
Article
Full-text available
We develop a data-driven approach to robustly assess freshwater changes due to climate change and/or human irrigation developments by use of the overarching constraints of catchment water balance. This is applied to and tested in the high-uncertainty case of Greece for five nested catchments of different scales across the country and for freshwater changes from an early period (1930–1949) with small human influences on climate and irrigation to a recent period (1990–2009) with expected greater such influences. The results show more or less equal contributions from climatic decrease in precipitation and from human irrigation development to a considerable total decrease in runoff (R) over Greece. This is on average −75 ± 10 mm/year and is greatest for the Ionian catchment in the west (−119 ± 18 mm/year) and the Peloponnese catchment in the south (−91 ± 16 mm/year). For evapotranspiration (ET), a climate-driven decrease component and an irrigation-driven increase component have led to a net total increase of ET over Greece. This is on average 26 ± 7 mm/year and is greatest for the Mainland catchment (29 ± 7 mm/year) and the Aegean catchment in the east (28 ± 6 mm/year). Overall, the resulting uncertainties in the water-balance constrained estimates of R and ET changes are smaller than the input data uncertainties.
Article
Full-text available
Olive farming is one of the most important occupations in Messenia, Greece. The region is considered the largest olive producer in the country and it is recognized as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for Kalamata olive oil, which is considered extra fine. In response to the declining trend of organic olive farming in Greece, this study assesses to what extent organic olive farming in Messenia provides a financially and environmentally competitive alternative to conventional olive farming. In this study, 39 olive farmers (23 conventional and 16 organic) participated in interviews based on questionnaires. The results showed that organic olive farming is significantly more profitable than conventional farming, primarily because of a higher price for organic olive oil. Despite this, the majority of the conventional farmers perceived a low profit from organic farming as the main constraint to organic olive farming. All farmers agreed that organic olive farming contributed to a better environment, health and quality of olive oil. Organic farmers used fewer synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and applied more environmentally-friendly ground vegetation management techniques than conventional farmers. Overall, organic farming was found to provide a competitive and sustainable alternative to conventional olive farming in Messenia.
Article
A double intergenerational conundrum abounds in sustainability science as young generations of researchers have relatively little influence on current strategic decisions, but inherit their potential future consequences as professionals as well as human-beings. Collaborating with early career researchers (ECRs) in global sustainability initiatives can help address this conundrum. Guided by a model for how enhanced collaboration with ECRs can emerge, we assess the current state of integration of ECRs in five major global sustainability initiatives. Highlighting the increasingly organized state of ECR networks, we find that initiatives increasingly collaborate with ECRs and that some initiatives integrate them at strategic decision-making levels. Yet, current forms of collaboration are often institutionally fragile and can be strengthened in this respect.
Article
Modern intensive agricultural practices are causing stress on ecosystems worldwide, with the loss of biodiversity due to decreased landscape heterogeneity as well as high use of synthetic agro-chemicals. Organic farming is seen as an effective way of counteracting this trend. Despite this, relatively little research has been carried out on the effects of olive farming on biodiversity in Greece. This study uses bioacoustic monitoring for a first order assessment of the bird diversity in olive groves. It uses acoustic indices to compare the soundscape of eleven organic and eleven conventional olive groves in Messinia in southern Greece. Three bioacoustics indices: the Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI), the Acoustic Diversity Index (ADI) and the Bioacoustic Index (BIO) were used. Olive groves under organic farming had significantly higher values for the ACI and BIO indices, and a higher but not significant different value for the ADI index. Organic groves showed a much more heterogeneous and complex structure with a mixture of tree species and varying canopy height than conventional groves. Landscape variables were similar between management practices and did not influence the index results. Site level variables, especially underlying vegetation height, had a significant influence on the ACI and BIO indices. Our results suggest that bioacoustic indices could provide a cost effective and non-intrusive way for bird diversity monitoring.
Article
Modern intensive agricultural practices are causing stress on ecosystems worldwide, with the loss of biodiversity due to decreased landscape heterogeneity as well as high use of synthetic agro-chemicals. Organic farming is seen as an effective way of counteracting this trend. Despite this, relatively little research has been carried out on the effects of olive farming on biodiversity in Greece. This study uses bioacoustic monitoring for a first order assessment of the bird diversity in olive groves. It uses acoustic indices to compare the soundscape of eleven organic and eleven conventional olive groves in Messinia in southern Greece. Three bioacoustics indices: the Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI), the Acoustic Diversity Index (ADI) and the Bioacoustic Index (BIO) were used. Olive groves under organic farming had significantly higher values for the ACI and BIO indices, and a higher but not significant different value for the ADI index. Organic groves showed a much more heterogeneous and complex structure with a mixture of tree species and varying canopy height than conventional groves. Landscape variables were similar between management practices and did not influence the index results. Site level variables, especially underlying vegetation height, had a significant influence on the ACI and BIO indices. Our results suggest that bioacoustic indices could provide a cost effective and non-intrusive way for bird diversity monitoring.
Article
This research aims to improve the knowledge of the mid to late Holocene climate changes and the underlying drivers in the eastern Mediterranean. We focus on the Peloponnese peninsula, SW Greece, characterized by a W-E rainfall/temperature gradient and a strong climate-sensitivity to shifts in the large-scale atmospheric patterns. A radiocarbon-dated sediment core, taken from the ancient Lake Lerna, a former lake in NE Peloponnese, was analyzed for distribution and hydrogen isotope (δD) composition of n-alkanes and bulk organic geochemistry (δ13C, TOC). The predominantly macrophyte (submerged/floating)-derived δD23 profile exhibits the largest long-term fluctuation in the record and co-varies with δD of long-chain n-alkanes providing evidence for precipitation and temperature changes over the last 5000 years. The Lerna δD23 signal is sometimes in agreement with other n-alkane δD records from SW Peloponnese indicating wetter conditions in the peninsula at ca 5000-4600, ca 4500-4100, ca 3000-2600 (more unstable in SW) and after ca 700 cal BP with drier periods at ca 4100-3900 and ca 1000-700 cal BP. Conversely, a NE-SW climate see-saw is revealed at ca 4600-4500, ca 3200, ca 2600-1800, and ca 1200-1000 cal BP when the δD23 Lerna exhibits more positive trends (drier in NE) with a reversal at ca 3900-3300, ca 3200-3000 and ca 1800-1300 cal BP. These opposing and sometimes similar signals between NE and SW Peloponnese can be explained by the relative dominance of high-latitude atmospheric patterns over the peninsula. A similar signal would be expected when the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) exerts the main control with NAO (+) creating conditions of reduced moisture. The dipole pattern is likely driven by shifts in North Sea–Caspian Atmospheric pattern (NCP), which account for the present-day regional climate variability with NCP (+) leading to wetter and colder conditions in NE Peloponnese. The Asian monsoonal system likely has an additional impact on the δD variabilities through influencing the summer temperatures. There is a consistency between the Peloponnesian δD signals and monsoonal records after ca 4000 cal BP confirming the actualistic models. Strong monsoonal periods coincide with cold summers (lower δD values) in Lerna, due to the northerly winds, the Etesians. On the contrary, SW Peloponnese is dominated by warmer conditions during the same periods as the area is located on the lee side of the mountain and highly influenced by the adiabatic warming associated with the subsidence over the Eastern Mediterranean.