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To define integrality in the context of a Uruguayan university and to provide relevant lessons for fostering transdisciplinary research and communication at other universities and contexts. To better understand how transdisciplinary research is being developed in Uruguay and how it relates to other research practices, such as integral activities, oriented towards the resolution of real world problems. To open new spaces for communication among researchers from different regions and countries as a way of reflecting not only on concepts, but also on research practices. The call for a theoretical-methodological discussion that promotes new formats of knowledge production, yet that also recognizes other formats of great academic validity that have been developed for more than thirty years in Latin American countries such as Uruguay. To value the legitimacy of non-traditional practices of doing science, which are often simplified as multi-or interdisciplinary, because they use those terms as a way to identify themselves. Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams 254 Introduction to the Chapter This chapter assesses developments in transdisciplinary communication in research teams in the Uruguayan academic context, specifically at the Universidad de la República (Ude-laR). While we support the thesis that transdisciplinarity (TD) is still not mainstream and is rarely supported in different countries, this chapter examines the extent to which a Uru-guayan university has embraced the concept of transdisciplinarity. We seek to contribute to the conceptual discussion on transdisciplinary research, taking UdelaR as our unit of analysis. We will focus our attention on the definition of transdisciplinarity, and discuss the nuances and distinctions in its understanding. We will also analyze contextual circumstances of transdisciplinarity, including larger structural factors and the different types of communicative formats developed by research teams. Our guiding questions are the following: (i) How is transdisciplinarity conceptualized in these academic centres in the Uruguayan context? (ii) How are the communicative processes with diverse social actors defined and practiced in these four centres? (iii) What can we learn about transdisciplinary communicative processes in different cultural contexts? We analyze four case studies that provide empirical data about the communicative processes developed between academia and diverse social actors aiming to address real-world or multidimensional problems (Bunders et al., 2010). We address how transdisciplinarity develops within a specific cultural context. We find evidence that research in Uruguay is achieving some elements of transdisciplinarity in research but these practices are termed differently as extension, outreach, or integral activities. These characteristics shared by most Latin American universities guide the communicative processes among actors. We further expand the concept of transdisciplinarity and propose a revised definition that is better suited to this context. This definition should include the ways in which scientific knowledge is produced, who participates in its production, and who is authorized to state the objectives and research questions put in motion an interaction among different actors, types of knowledge and experiences. The evidence suggests that transdisciplinarity in Uruguayan research is developing under other labels, and this fact does not necessarily impede the framing of research oriented towards societal issues. Our study also acknowledges that there is a growing capacity among interdisciplinary groups to evaluate the quality of transdisciplinary communicative processes and to learn from such evaluations. We aim to build bridges among researchers conducting transdisciplinary research in different countries and continents and show that there are practices and discourses that share a common understanding of this concept. The empirical frame of reference is the experience gained in the construction and consolidation of four Interdisciplinary Centres (ICs) at UdelaR, between 2009 and 2017. The four Centres work on complex problems and address grand challenges, namely, (i) This chapter is structured as follows. First, we describe the theoretical framework used to conceptualize transdisciplinarity. Second, we present the characteristics of UdelaR's model in the shared historical context of the Centres analysed in this research. Third, we describe the four case studies in detail and discuss each space by analyzing their similarities and differences. Fourth, we conceptualize our findings in light of the rationale introduced in the second section. Finally, we present conclusions regarding the lessons learned from the analysis of the four Centres and the future research challenges.
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Gaetano R. Lotrecchiano & Shalini Misra (Editors). 2020
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
Santa Rosa, CA: Informing Science Press
Chapter 9:
Transdisciplinary Communication
in Research Teams:
Institutional Constructs and
Practices from a Uruguayan
Perspective
Bianca Vienni Baptista
Transdisciplinarity Lab, Swiss National Institute of Technology,
Zurich, Switzerland
bianca.vienni@usys.ethz.ch
Maria Goñi Mazzitelli
Academic Department, Comisión Sectorial de Investigación Científica,
Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
mgoni@csic.edu.uy
Florencia Ferrigno Came
Extension and Outreach Unit, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales,
Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
mfferrigno@gmail.com
Chapter Objectives
To define integrality in the context of a Uruguayan university and to provide rele-
vant lessons for fostering transdisciplinary research and communication at other
universities and contexts.
To better understand how transdisciplinary research is being developed in Uruguay
and how it relates to other research practices, such as integral activities, oriented
towards the resolution of real world problems.
To open new spaces for communication among researchers from different regions
and countries as a way of reflecting not only on concepts, but also on research
practices. The call for a theoretical-methodological discussion that promotes new
formats of knowledge production, yet that also recognizes other formats of great
academic validity that have been developed for more than thirty years in Latin
American countries such as Uruguay.
To value the legitimacy of non-traditional practices of doing science, which are of-
ten simplified as multi- or interdisciplinary, because they use those terms as a way
to identify themselves.
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
254
Introduction to the Chapter
This chapter assesses developments in transdisciplinary communication in research teams
in the Uruguayan academic context, specifically at the Universidad de la República (Ude-
laR). While we support the thesis that transdisciplinarity (TD) is still not mainstream and is
rarely supported in different countries, this chapter examines the extent to which a Uru-
guayan university has embraced the concept of transdisciplinarity. We seek to contribute to
the conceptual discussion on transdisciplinary research, taking UdelaR as our unit of analy-
sis. We will focus our attention on the definition of transdisciplinarity, and discuss the nu-
ances and distinctions in its understanding. We will also analyze contextual circumstances
of transdisciplinarity, including larger structural factors and the different types of commu-
nicative formats developed by research teams.
Our guiding questions are the following: (i) How is transdisciplinarity conceptualized in
these academic centres in the Uruguayan context? (ii) How are the communicative process-
es with diverse social actors defined and practiced in these four centres? (iii) What can we
learn about transdisciplinary communicative processes in different cultural contexts?
We analyze four case studies that provide empirical data about the communicative process-
es developed between academia and diverse social actors aiming to address real-world or
multidimensional problems (Bunders et al., 2010). We address how transdisciplinarity de-
velops within a specific cultural context. We find evidence that research in Uruguay is
achieving some elements of transdisciplinarity in research but these practices are termed
differently as extension, outreach, or integral activities.
These characteristics shared by most Latin American universities guide the communicative
processes among actors. We further expand the concept of transdisciplinarity and propose
a revised definition that is better suited to this context. This definition should include the
ways in which scientific knowledge is produced, who participates in its production, and
who is authorized to state the objectives and research questions put in motion an interac-
tion among different actors, types of knowledge and experiences.
The evidence suggests that transdisciplinarity in Uruguayan research is developing under
other labels, and this fact does not necessarily impede the framing of research oriented to-
wards societal issues. Our study also acknowledges that there is a growing capacity among
interdisciplinary groups to evaluate the quality of transdisciplinary communicative process-
es and to learn from such evaluations. We aim to build bridges among researchers conduct-
ing transdisciplinary research in different countries and continents and show that there are
practices and discourses that share a common understanding of this concept.
The empirical frame of reference is the experience gained in the construction and consoli-
dation of four Interdisciplinary Centres (ICs) at UdelaR, between 2009 and 2017. The four
Centres work on complex problems and address grand challenges, namely, (i) Centro Interdis-
ciplinario de Nanotecnología, Química y Física de los Materiales (CINQUIFIMA; Interdisciplinary
Centre for Nanotechnology, Chemistry, and Physical Analysis of Materials), (ii) Centro Inter-
disciplinario de Manejo Costero Integrado del Cono Sur (MCISur; Interdisciplinary Centre for Inte-
grated Coastal Management of the Southern Cone), (iii) Centro Interdisciplinario de Investi-
gaciones Biomédicas (CEINBIO; Interdisciplinary Centre for Biomedical Research), and (iv)
Centro Interdisciplinario de Envejecimiento (CIEN; Interdisciplinary Centre on Aging).
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
255
This chapter is structured as follows. First, we describe the theoretical framework used to
conceptualize transdisciplinarity. Second, we present the characteristics of UdelaR’s model
in the shared historical context of the Centres analysed in this research. Third, we describe
the four case studies in detail and discuss each space by analyzing their similarities and dif-
ferences. Fourth, we conceptualize our findings in light of the rationale introduced in the
second section. Finally, we present conclusions regarding the lessons learned from the
analysis of the four Centres and the future research challenges.
Background
Understanding the production of transdisciplinary knowledge implies a shared communica-
tive process that gives meaning to a particular academic culture (Bunders et al., 2010). For
transdisciplinary communication to be successful, many different processes and practices
are integrated in order to address complex problems. This implies a different communica-
tive framework that aligns with participatory and collaborative research approaches (Hoff-
mann, Pohl, & Hering, 2017a, 2017b).
Knowledge production processes are changing to respond to new demands from different
social actors. It is in this context that transdisciplinarity has emerged and has positioned
itself as an innovative response to the increasing complexity of our society. Its current as-
cendancy is characterized by an increased interest across academic, public and private sec-
tors (Klein, 2014). The concept of transdisciplinarity has emerged due to the cooperation
between different disciplines and social actors in the pursuit of solving social problems
(Bergmann et al., 2012; Klein, 2010; Lang et al., 2012; Spoun & Kölzer 2014; Vilsmaier &
Lang; 2015; Vilsmaier, Brandner & Engbers, 2017; to name a few). Transdisciplinarity has
emerged as a solution to problems related to grand challenges, such as described in Lang et
al. (2012) and Vilsmaier and Lang (2015). We acknowledge differing definitions of transdis-
ciplinarity and we follow Klein’s (2014) taxonomy, which characterizes the development of
transdisciplinary research. Her research traces historical trends, rhetorical claims, and social
formations that have helped to shape three major discourses of transdisciplinarity: (i) tran-
scendence, (ii) problem-solving, and (iii) transgression.
Of these discourses, problem-solving is used as a framework to develop our study. This
discourse is related to the increasing cooperation among different disciplines and social
actors with the goal of addressing and solving social challenges and problems (Spoun &
Kölzer, 2014). The premise of this discourse is that “real-worldproblems constitute com-
plex challenges and they become the focus of research questions and practices. Complexity,
multidimensionality, and diversity play a central role in the process of knowledge produc-
tion (Klein, 2014). From a methodological perspective, integration is critical to knowledge
production, accompanied by iteration, revision, connection, reconnection, and recursivity
(Bergmann et al., 2012).
The change in the processes of knowledge production has yet to fully permeate the institu-
tions where such knowledge is produced (Weingart, 2014). This is necessary to consolidate
a consequent and lasting transformation on the structures and practices in which
knowledge is developed. In this context, different universities around the world have start-
ed to implement changes in their organizational structures with the aim of giving transdis-
ciplinarity a space to branch out outside the traditional disciplinary space (Klein, 2010).
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
256
Some universities have introduced structural transformations, which institutionalize the
concept of transdisciplinarity, mainly in the European (Frodeman, Klein, & Mitcham, 2010;
Klein, 2010; Schneidewind, Singer-Brodowski, Augenstein, & Stelze, 2016; Spoun &
Kölzer, 2014) and Australian (Fam, Palmer, Riedy, & Mitchell 2016) contexts. Moving to-
wards transdisciplinary organizational structures in universities requires fundamental
changes. According to Weingart (2014), there are obstacles which lie in the nature of disci-
plines as forms of knowledge production that are, at the same time, institutionalized in or-
ganizational structures that, like departments or faculties, cannot be easily changed. Disci-
plines, sub-disciplines, and —considered in a wider societal context— academia, are epis-
temic communities (Rist, Chiddambaranathan, Escobar, & Wiesmann, 2006) that vary ac-
cording to their cultures of knowing and acting and serve as references for personal and
professional identities. Transdisciplinary knowledge production, therefore, can be consid-
ered as an activity developed in an intercultural endeavour (Vilsmaier et al., 2017) that pos-
es questions on how these cultural differences determine the way we understand science
and its development.
In Latin America, transdisciplinary practices can be related to the activities named as exten-
sion, outreach, and integral activities. University extension represents the university getting
closer to the disadvantaged sectors of society through activities that benefit the most vul-
nerable communities. The University’s outreach is characterized by seeking collaboration
among University actors and other social actors, based on inclusiveness of different per-
spectives, equality and open communication, with the aim of obtaining socially-valuable
objectives and transforming reality (Consejo Directivo Central, 2010). Integrality articulates
the processes of learning and teaching, researching and outreach. It implies a communica-
tive and critical relationship between connected actors, based on an interdisciplinary multi-
professional take (Rodríguez & Tommasino, 2010)
The relationship between these practices is due to the historical context shared by almost
all Latin American universities, which was influenced by the Córdoba Reform in 1918 (Vi-
enni Baptista, Vasen, & Villa Soto, 2018). The reform was first initiated in the Universidad
de Córdoba in Argentina and then influenced almost all universities in the continent. The
Córdoba Reform cannot be analyzed without taking into account some transformations
that were taking place in the Latin American political setting.
The Latin American student movement was historically committed to the need to rethink
the relationship between university and society (Bralich, 2009). Students deployed postu-
lates that sought to transform university education from the articulation between the politi-
cal, social, and academic spheres. The most relevant demands were mainly focused on au-
tonomy, co-governance, and outreach. University autonomy has been one the Reform’s
priorities. The objective of autonomy was to achieve greater independence for university
activities and overcome barriers imposed by the Church and the government and social
upper classes (Tünnermann Bernheim, 2008, as cited in Vienni Baptista et al., 2018). Since
the Reform intended to reconsider the relationship between the university and society, au-
tonomy was crucial to keeping a distance from the State and the Church in order to be able
to perform social criticism. The concept of autonomy contemplated the possibility for the
university community to select its own authorities and to choose its own professors and
curricula, to make decisions on the budget, and in the event of an authoritarian govern-
ment – it included the protection of the building against law enforcement agencies.
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
257
Co-governance refers to the involvement of professors, students, and alumni in the gov-
ernance of the institution. Professor participation is not unique to Latin America and can
be traced back to the origin of universities conceived as self-regulated places for academic
independence. Alumni participation reflects their intention to stay in touch with the institu-
tion they once studied in and to the community to which they belong. Student participation
is the Reform´s fundamental contribution (Vienni Baptista et al., 2018). By doing this the
university transforms itself into an institution bound to democratic guidelines with political
representation based on election processes.
In Uruguay, the relationship between UdelaR and different social communities has a long
history, and in the words of Baroldi, “... the trilogy (research teaching extension) not only characteriz-
es it and gives it a distinctive stamp but also constitutes the radical difference from any university institution
… in the country, especially if it is private” (2009, p.14). UdelaR’s legacies are important aspects
related to university autonomy, co-government, and the link of the University with social
problems; that is developed by the aims of extension, outreach, and integral activities. The
understanding of this third university mission, namely social service, is characteristic of the
Latin American university, and would become an identity mark with impact on the relation-
ship between universities and science in the region (Vienni Baptista et al., 2018).
Although the Reform did not make any explicit comments on interdisciplinarity or trans-
disciplinarity, we believe the implemented changes can be retrospectively associated with
certain openness to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge (Vienni Baptista et al.,
2018). Firstly, the social commitment of the university community increased because of the
Reform movement. Secondly, outreach and extension activities play a substantial role in the
way research and teaching are practiced and performed in Latin American universities (Vi-
enni Baptista et al., 2018). Some of the features called integral in Uruguay are shared with
the definition of transdisciplinarity in the European context. Among them, there is the in-
tention of transforming the social reality and the orientation of the university practices to
the resolution of social problems with an interdisciplinary anchoring.
We analyze the differences and similarities between Integrality and Transdisciplinarity (TD)
in the following section. In order to study these differences and the diversity of perspec-
tives in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and teaching, we have proposed a
field within the Science, Technology and Society Studies (STS) named Studies on Interdis-
ciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity (SoIT) (Vienni Baptista, 2016a, 2016c). There is currently
renewed interest in interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in some countries and universi-
ties in Latin America, evidenced by recent discussion of research methods and dissemina-
tion of results that critically engage theory and practice (Vienni Baptista, 2016b). The con-
cept of regionalism that anchors these fields is aimed at building dialogue and systematizing
lessons from Latin American initiatives (Vienni Baptista, 2016a).
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
258
Studies on Inter- and Transdisciplinarity (SoIT)
The field named Studies on Inter- and Transdisciplinarity (SoIT) constitutes a framework
for systematic analysis of research practices and processes as well as perceptions of re-
searchers and relationships within groups and institutions. The main objective is to create a
theoretical and methodological framework for analyzing interdisciplinarity and transdisci-
plinarity in the Latin American context, while also studying aspects of interdisciplinarity
and transdisciplinarity in scientific development (Vienni Baptista, 2016a). The relevance of
this new field lies in theoretical contributions built from comprehensive analysis of practic-
es and awareness of the increasing complexity of scientific knowledge (Frodeman et al.,
2010).
These main features of transdisciplinarity are pivotal to the discussion on how this ap-
proach can be defined in different countries and institutions. They also constitute the pil-
lars on which we can build common ground to understand the empirical data we have
gathered in the Uruguayan academic context.
The Concept of Integrality in the Uruguayan University
Questions regarding the possibilities of the transformation of social reality based on
knowledge production, and more specifically, the articulation of the University with its so-
cial context, has been highly debated by Latin American universities from the 19th century
onwards.
The Universidad de la República was influenced by the rdoba Reform, as mentioned before,
which started in 1918 as a student protest against the on-going traditionalism and clerical-
ism at universities. Between 2006 and 2014, a process of institutional transformation began
in UdelaR, influenced by changes in the means of production and organization of
knowledge on a global scale and permeated by the closest regional context. This process
was based on the concept of development, seen as multidimensional, where knowledge
production in UdelaR must aim towards the improvement of the Uruguayan inhabitants’
life quality (Arocena, 2011). This process was called Segunda Reforma Universitaria (SRU; Sec-
ond University Reform) and was guided by the Córdoba Reform principles and by the con-
cept of Universidad para el Desarrollo (University for Development) (Arocena, 2014). The
SRU calls for an institutional change based on UdelaR’s social mission, namely extension
and outreach, and its involvement in the studying and solving of national problems. This
Reform allowed for dialogue between UdelaR and society, and its guiding principle was the
democratization of knowledge (Arocena, 2011).
In accordance with the SRU, UdelaR must constantly find answers to problems that arise in
its context. These transformations permeate the whole University’s structure and the way in
which it connects and relates with the social and productive contexts (Randall, 2009). With-
in this framework, UdelaR significantly progresses in the formalization and institutionaliza-
tion of the extension and integrality, developing working methodologies alongside the
community and integrating University actors to this type of work (Bralich, 2009).
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
259
Extension, outreach and integral activities apply participative methodologies for stimulating
the participation of university and non-university actors in the educational or knowledge
production processes. Thus, the participatory methodologies are applied to stimulate the
active participation of the actors involved in the processes of knowledge construction. “The
interesting thing is that these participatory methodologies, in general, have been born precisely from social
movements and with critical and transformative pretensions” (Villasante, 2010). Extension, outreach
and integral activities growth implies a significant deepening in the theoretical-
epistemological and methodological development in the University-society relationship
(Consejo Directivo Central, 2010).
Contributions from the Participatory Action Research (IAP) methodology, whose main
representative is Orlando Fals Borda (Fals Borda, 2014; Fals Borda & Rodríguez, 1987), are
applied in extension and integral activities. According to this author, other extra-academic
knowledge for the production of knowledge is central in any process of knowledge produc-
tion. The actors involved participate in the knowledge production process of a historical
reality that is ultimately sought to be transformed. De Sousa Santos (2010) proposes a dia-
logical encounter of knowledge, an ecology of knowledge that combines thoughts and
worldviews.
The SRU implied a deepening of the aforementioned methodological approaches together
with an increasingly closer dialogue between the university and society, along with the de-
mocratization of knowledge as a guiding principle (Arocena, 2011). “Extension can make an
important contribution to the democratization of knowledge, by questioning the frequent notion that the
power of knowledge can only be concentrated in some actors at the expense of others” (Arocena, 2010, p.
15).
Although the development of the concept of extension in the UdelaR presumed a signifi-
cant deepening in the theoretical-epistemological and methodological spheres in university-
society relations, this deepening was not sufficient in itself. Thus, there was a need to re-
configure its articulation with the other functions of the university; namely teaching and
research. The notion of Integrality in the university configures itself as one of the central
axes of the so-called Second Reform.
Integrality “[…] implies a specific type of articulation between the processes of learning and teaching, re-
searching and outreach; it includes an interdisciplinary multi-professional take, and it implies a communica-
tive and critical relationship between connected actors, where a communicative relationship between academic
knowledge and general knowledge comes into play” (Rodríguez & Tommasino, 2010).
Combining teaching, research and extension in integral practices at the service of social development is an
even more revolutionary proposal, which is at the heart of the Latin American University ideal(Aro-
cena, 2010: 7).
The approach to social problems is not a new fact within UdelaR’s framework. As de-
scribed previously, various policies seek to encourage the connection between social de-
mands and knowledge production. What constitutes a new fact are the forms and charac-
teristics these approaches acquire, and the broadening of the research agenda of academics,
who integrate new problems, previously considered irrelevant or “out of context. The
conceptual map outlined by some authors (Gibbons et al., 1994; Jasanoff, 2004; Ziman,
2003), related to the field of the Science, Technology and Society Studies (STS), accounts
for the changes in the modes and characteristics of knowledge production processes. This
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
260
also affects the approach to multidimensional or unstructured problems (Bunders et al.,
2010), which demands collaborative research modes that cross disciplinary boundaries.
Integrality in the Uruguayan University
The concept of integrality developed at UdelaR, is characterized by (Rodríguez & Tom-
masino, 2010; Tommasino, Kaplún, & Etchebehere, 2015):
- The integration of the three university functions (extension, research, teaching).
- The interdisciplinary perspective is present at the epistemological level and in the inter-
vention processes.
- The transformative intentionality of the intervention that conceives the social actors as
central characters.
- The teaching and learning processes are interlinked, both in terms of their content and the
methodologies that are applied.
- The territorial and intersectoral approach in intervention. This means that knowledge
production processes are carried out with a local perspective and include different institu-
tions and organizations.
In this sense, the UdelaR (Consejo Directivo Central, 2010) establishes the following con-
stitutive aspects of integrality as a concept, which are synthesized in Table 1 and related to
the main features of TD.
Table 1. Comparison between the constitutive aspects of the concept of Integrality and its
relationship with the concept of Transdisciplinarity
Integralitys
constitutive
aspects
Description
TD related features
Integration of
the three Uni-
versity mis-
sions
It refers to the articulation of
teaching, research and extension
to solve a real-world problem for
the common good of a vulnerable
community. This process implies
different steps where different
actors participate with diverse
kinds of knowledge (Romano,
2014).
TD implies an integration process, which
aims at improving the understanding of
real-world problems by synthesizing rele-
vant knowledge from diverse disciplines
and stakeholders (McDonald, Bammer, &
Deane, 2009; Pohl, Krütli, & Stauffacher,
2018).
This process’ goals are (i) to grasp the com-
plexity of the problems, (ii) to link abstract
and case specific knowledge; and (iii) to
constitute knowledge with a focus on prob-
lem-solving or common good (Hirsch
Hadorn et al., 2007).
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
261
Integralitys
constitutive
aspects
Description
TD related features
Interdiscipli-
narity
Integrality refers to the interdisci-
plinary integration in three senses:
(1) Interdisciplinarity from an
epistemological perspective: when
trying to integrate aspects of the
knowledge production process
that are historically fragmented
(De Sousa Santos, 2010). Interdis-
ciplinarity is related to integrality
as a possibility to approach phe-
nomena by integrating different
disciplinary perspectives when
building the object of study /
framing the problem, etc.
(2) Problem framing: Related to
the methodology applied to solve
the problem under study. When
intervening on a social problem,
the aim is to articulate and inte-
grate methodologies associated
with different disciplines.
(3) Constitution of groups: in inte-
gral processes, researchers try to
always build an interdisciplinary
group to approach the problem.
Relationship between ID and TD in
knowledge processes.
- TD implies an integration operation of
establishing a novel connection be-
tween distinct epistemic, social-
organizational, and communicative en-
tities that make up the given problem
context (Klein 2012 in Hoffmann et al,
2017a).
- TD seeks to perform research that
addresses societally relevant problems
as drivers for posing scientific research
questions. (Hoffmann et al, 2017a).
TD seeks to grasp the complexity of the
problem by involving a variety of scientific
and societal actors and accounting for the
diversity of perspectives on a problem
(Hoffmann et al, 2017a).
Transdisciplinary processes generate
knowledge that is solution-oriented, socially
robust and transferable to both scientific
and societal practice (Hoffmann et al,
2017).
Transforma-
tional aim of
the interven-
tion (conceiv-
ing social ac-
tors as main
actors)
Some authors refer to the possibil-
ity of building new knowledge
from the articulation between
academic knowledge and popular
knowledge (Cetrulo, 2016).
Integrality is based on common
sense or popular knowledge to
achieve an increasingly objective
understanding of reality for its
transformation (Torres, 1987 in
Rodríguez & Tommasino, 2010).
To do this, we take into account,
for example, the perspective of
Ecology of Knowledge (De Sousa
Santos, 2010) and participatory
research (Fals Borda & Rodríguez,
1987).
TD recognizes different types of knowledge
that are at stake (Pohl, Krütli, & Stauffa-
cher, 2017). For instance, systems, target
and transformation knowledge.
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
262
Integralitys
constitutive
aspects
Description
TD related features
Comprehen-
sive concep-
tion of teach-
ing and learn-
ing processes
both in their
content and in
their method-
ologies
It refers to the integral conception
of the student and his education,
of the teacher and of the object of
knowledge (Romano, 2014).
Mutual learning process among the people
who participate in the problem and help to
pose the problem (Hoffmann et al, 2017a).
Territorial and
intersectoral
approach in
the interven-
tion
It refers to the need to intervene
and / or produce knowledge both
in the territory and in coordination
with different institutions
(Rodríguez & Tomassino, 2010).
Different types of involved actors and dif-
ferent levels of actor involvement (infor-
mation, consultation, and collaboration) are
also present in transdisciplinary processes
(Hoffmann et al., 2017a, 2017b).
Participatory
Methods
Participatory Action Research
Methods for transdisciplinary research
(Hofmann et al., 2017b; McDonald et al.,
2009; to name a few)
Integrality is materialized through specific policies for the development of extension in the
university curriculum (Arocena, et al., 2013; Bralich, 2009; Berruti, Cabo, & Debezies, 2014;
Cano, Cabo, & Debezies, 2011; Faldori, n.d.; Grabino & Carlos, 2013). The main policy
was the implementation of “Espacios de Formación Integralor Integral Training Spaces
(EFIs, for their acronym in Spanish). The EFIs are areas for the promotion of integral practices in
the University, favouring the articulation of teaching, extension and investigation in the formative process of
the students, promoting the critical and proactive thought, and the autonomy of the subjects involved. Integral
practices promote the initiation to group work from an interdisciplinary perspective, where different services
and areas of knowledge can be linked, gathered by the same subject, a territory or problem(Arocena,
2010, p. 15).
The EFIs have increased both in number and in participatory theoretical and methodologi-
cal perspectives since their creation. There were 92 EFIs in 2010 compared to 153 in 2013
(Red de Extensión, 2013). This meant that in 2013, 6,478 students and 686 teachers from
across UdelaR were linked to these integral spaces.
The EFIs have in common the recognition of the need to stimulate work outside the class-
room for the construction of relevant knowledge based on social problems. According to
Antonio Romano:
“…then comes the idea that knowledge can be put into play in a learning space beyond the class-
room and beyond professional practice to innovate in the most comprehensive teaching formats.
That is, the classroom as a format, as “space”, should not be the only place where knowledge is
put into play.” (Romano, 2011, p. 91)
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
263
Methodology
Our study is based on data obtained by the research project entitled “The production of
interdisciplinary knowledge in UdelaR: modalities, integration and evaluation processes”,
funded by the Comisión Sectorial de Investigación Científica (CSIC; Central Commission of Scien-
tific Research) of UdelaR between 2017 and 2019. This research aims to answer three ques-
tions that guide the analysis of the Interdisciplinary Centres under study, namely, (i) How is
transdisciplinarity conceptualized in these academic centres in the Uruguayan context? (ii)
How are the communicative processes with diverse social actors defined and practiced in
these four centres? (iii) What can we learn about transdisciplinary communicative processes
in different cultural contexts?
Our research focuses on the study of four Interdisciplinary Centres financed for their de-
velopment and consolidation by the Espacio Interdisciplinario of UdelaR. Since 2009, those
Interdisciplinary Centres involve the consolidation of long-term teams (five years) for the
study of a problem that is part of the Uruguayan political agenda. Their activities include
teaching, research and extension activities, which seek to consolidate the integrality of func-
tions according to the definitions provided in the previous sections. These teams and their
members constitute our units of analysis (Table 2).
Table 2. The four interdisciplinary Centers under study. Source: the authors.
Interdisciplinary
Center Research problem Disciplines
Centro Interdisciplinario de
Nanotecnología, Química y
Física de los Materiales
(CINQUIFIMA; Inter-
disciplinary Centre for
Nanotechnology, Chemis-
try, and Physical Analysis
of Materials)
The problem addressed by this Cen-
tre is to develop Nanotechnology
and Chemistry and Physics of Mate-
rials in Uruguay. This involves su-
pramolecular chemistry, the synthesis
of precursors, materials and nano-
materials, their structural study and
their physical characterization and
the forecast of their properties. It is
on this basis that the Centre also
seeks to contribute to design applica-
tions, for example in health, in the
production and generation of energy.
Chemistry, Physics, Engineer-
ing, Dentistry, and Biology
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
264
Interdisciplinary
Center Research problem Disciplines
Centro Interdisciplinario de
Manejo Costero Integrado del
Cono Sur (MCISur; Inter-
disciplinary Centre for
Integrated Coastal Man-
agement of the Southern
Cone)
Its main goal is to
consolidate the
integration process of several action
levels on the coast to agree on pro-
grams for the protection and sustain-
able development of coastal envi-
ronments and their resources. This
process is characterized by the reso-
lution of conflicts among users, the
reduction of cumulative impacts, and
the participation of communities, on
a local scale, as a fundamental man-
aging component (Conde & Gómez,
2011).
Sedimentology, Geomorpholo-
gy, Coastal dyna
quality, Urban planning, Envi-
ronmental and territorial plan-
ning, Epistemology, Sociology,
Sciences, Environmental Eco-
nomics, Public and Interna-
Culture and Coastal and Di-
dactic Heritage.
Centro Interdisciplinario de
Investigaciones Biomédicas
(CEINBIO; Interdiscipli-
nary Centre for Biomedi-
cal Research).
The Centre addresses the molecular
and cellular processes linked to the
development of human pathologies,
focusing particularly on the study of
cardiovascular, neurodegenerative,
renal and inflammatory / infectious
pathologies through studies in cell
models, animals and humans. A ma-
jor effort of CEINBIO has been to
address in a rigorous and mechanistic
molecular and cellular processes
linked
to human pathology and its
translation to the physiopathological,
pharmacological and clinical area,
and in parallel to promote the devel-
opment of new methodologies (im-
munochemical, bioanalytical, compu-
tational) that allow to advance in
depth in the unders
tanding of the
problems posed (Centro de Investi-
gaciones Biomédicas, 2015). Along-
side with the training of highly quali-
fied human resources, this Centre
provides updated and operational
research infrastructures to increase
the understanding of health-disease
processes, and as a tool to improve
the quality of healthcare.
Chemistry, Biochemistry, Bio-
Molecular Biology, Cell Biolo-
gy, Plant Biology, Biomedicine,
Physiology, Nutrition, Patho-
physiology, Pathology, Phar-
macology, Clinical research.
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
265
Interdisciplinary
Center Research problem Disciplines
Centro Interdisciplinario de
Envejecimiento (CIEN; In-
terdisciplinary Centre on
Aging).
The problem addressed by this Cen-
tre is the aging and the advanced age
of the population studied from a
psychosocial perspective, focusing on
problems
related to everyday life,
social inclusion, rights and social
construction of concrete modalities
for the elder.
Psychology, Demography, So-
ciology, Medicine, Law, Indus-
Sciences
The four Centres amount to a total of 107 researchers (17 members of CINQUIFIMA, 12
members of MCISUR, 65 members of CEINBIO and 13 of CIEN). The researcher distri-
bution according to their gender shows that the number of women (52 in total, 48.5%) is
slightly lower than that of men. In terms of age distribution, the age group most researchers
belong to is between the ages of 46 and 55 (33.6%), followed by those between the ages of
36 and 45 (25.2%), and last, between the ages of 28 to 35 (23.4%). Eighty percent of re-
searchers held a PhD, 17% have a master’s degree, and there are few cases in which the
researcher only had a bachelor’s degree.
These Centres were analyzed as case studies (Yin, 1989). The purpose was to understand in
depth actors’ practices, meanings, beliefs, and representations. This required the use of spe-
cific data collection techniques. One of the distinctive elements of this type of research is
its inductive and emerging character (Mendizábal, 2007). This way of exercising research is
sought to create concepts from the data found before verifying theoretical hypotheses
through empirical work (Mendizábal, 2007). The value of the selected cases does not lie in
their specificity, in their intrinsic interest, but rather in what Stake (1998) calls an instru-
mental case study”. Thus, it is assumed that from the four selected cases it is possible to
access a better understanding of the conceptualization of transdisciplinarity and how these
processes are enacted and lived (Douglas, 1979).
The selection of the four Interdisciplinary Centres as case studies consisted of a detailed
description and analysis of these unique social units (Yin, 1989, 2014). It can be assumed
that, out of the selected cases, it is possible to have a better understanding of the develop-
ment and characteristics of transdisciplinarity. The goal is to choose cases that can probably
replicate or extend the emerging theory. … The number of cases must be added until the saturation of the
theory” is achieved (Eisenhardt, 1989). Multiple cases are a powerful tool to theorize because
they allow replication and the extension among individual cases (Eisenhardt, 1991).
For the selection of the cases, the following criteria were applied to the Centres: (i) discipli-
nary diversity in the way they are integrated; (ii) different problem areas as the focus of
their work; (iii) strong orientation towards the application of research results; (iv) their link-
age with actors outside the academic sphere; (v) participation of academics from UdelaR
Schools that are not located in the capital of the country, but in the other departments; and
(vi) strong connection to institutions outside UdelaR.
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
266
In order to address the questions posed, we conducted a combination of different data col-
lection techniques. Yin (1989) recommends the use of multiple data sources and compli-
ance with the principle of triangulation to ensure the internal validity of the research.
The following data-collection techniques were prioritized:
Semi-structured interviews addressed to the members of the Interdisciplinary Cen-
tres: different interview guidelines were designed according to whether the inter-
viewees were responsible for, or participants of the Centres. The interview guide-
lines were divided into four units in which we inquired about (i) the researchers
professional and academic trajectories, (ii) the Centres research problem and pro-
jects, (iii) their working modalities and integration processes, and (iv) the linkage
with social actors. Each unit contained a series of questions that allowed retrieving
the data for the analysis of the selected dimensions. During the interviews, we
worked with a set of concepts that emerged from the theoretical framework that
were presented to the interviewees in a card. This step sought to reveal the inter-
viewees’ perception on different definitions and concepts. These concepts in-
volved types of integration (methodological, theoretical and empirical), degrees of
integration (narrow and broad), drivers of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary re-
search (problems at the border of different disciplines, solving problems, interest
in the advancement of knowledge and interest academic). In total, 26 interviews
were conducted (Table 3). The quotes extracted from the interviews were integrat-
ed into this text in quotation marks and italics.
Participant observation in different activities promoted by the Interdisciplinary
Centres: in total, 6 instances of observation took place, in meetings, seminars and
plenary sessions, organized by the Centres under study. We developed the observa-
tion as outside researchers (Trowler, 2014), and we used a template designed for
that purpose that included the dimensions of analysis. In total, we observed fifteen
hours of work that were developed between 2017 and 2018. The data collected us-
ing this technique was limited to understanding the strategies of knowledge inte-
gration between disciplines and ways of linking researchers with non-academic ac-
tors. The information obtained through observation was an input with a more lim-
ited function in the study than the documentary analysis and the interviews (Table
3).
Document analysis: the document analysis included three main types of docu-
ments: (i) internal reports and grey literature produced by each Centre. These re-
ports cover the initial consolidation phase of each Centre, with its objectives and
planned strategies, as well as the assessment reports produced at the middle of the
funding period (three years); ii) internal documents of each Centre. These docu-
ments contain interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary reflections that have driven
the Centresworking plans; and iii) scientific articles and chapters of books by the
members of the four Centres. Three researchers of our team simultaneously ana-
lysed and systematized 27 documents that complement the set of data that has
been collected throughout the project (Table 3).
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
267
Table 3. Techniques and features of the data collected for each case study.
Interdisciplinary Center Techniques and types of data collected
Centro Interdisciplinario de Nano-
tecnología, Química y Física de los
Materiales (CINQUIFIMA;
Interdisciplinary Centre for
Nanotechnology, Chemistry,
and Physical Analysis of Mate-
rials)
Semi-
structured interviews: Coordinator (1 male) and
members (2 males and 1 female).
Document analysis: Proposal for the creation of the in-
terdisciplinary centre (2009-2014) and different products
(reports, evaluations, articles in magazines, chapters of
books and books).
Centro Interdisciplinario de Manejo
Costero Integrado del Cono Sur
(MCISur; Interdisciplinary
Centre for Integrated Coastal
Management of the Southern
Cone)
Semi-
structured interviews: Coordinator (1 male) and
members (3 males and 3 females)
Documentary analysis: Proposal for the creation of the
interdisciplinary center (2009-2014) and products (re-
ports, evaluations, articles in magazines, chapters of
books and books)
Centro Interdisciplinario de Investi-
gaciones Biomédicas (CEINBIO;
Interdisciplinary Centre for
Biomedical Research).
Semi-structur
ed interviews: Coordinator (1 male) and
members (5 males and 2 females).
Document analysis: Proposal for the creation of the in-
terdisciplinary centre (2015-2020) and products (reports,
evaluations, articles in magazines, chapters of books and
books)
Participant observation (2 activities observed): (i) Cen-
ters general plenary session in which social actors also
participated; and (ii) One-
day seminar for theoretical
discussion and the development of new research in-
sights.
Centro Interdisciplinario de Enveje-
cimiento (CIEN; Interdiscipli-
nary Centre on Aging).
Semi-structured interviews: Coordinators (1 male and 1
female) and members (3 males and 2 females).
Document analysis: Proposal for the creation of the in-
terdisciplinary centre (2015-2020) and products (reports,
evaluations, articles in magazines, chapters of books and
books)
Participant observation (4 activities observed): (i) Two
Centres general plenary sessions in which social actors
also participated; (ii) One academic seminar with the
participation o
f researchers from University and social
actors; and (iii) One-day seminar for theoretical and con-
ceptual discussion, in which researchers from the Centre
participated.
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
268
The characterization and analysis of transdisciplinary communicative processes were per-
formed according to a series of dimensions that were constructed for that purpose.
The dimensions that guided the data collection and the analysis arise from the systematiza-
tion of the literature on interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. We took into considera-
tion the typologies developed by different authors who have studied inter- and transdisci-
plinary knowledge production and communicative processes (Aboelela et al., 2007,
Huutoniemi, Klein, Henrik, & Hukkinen, 2009; Klein, 2010, 2014; Klein & Falk-Krzesinki,
2017; von Wehrden et al., 2017; Wagner et al., 2010).
The dimensions of analysis are a product of the theoretical input from the systematic litera-
ture review (Xiao & Watson, 2019) and its triangulation with the empirical data from field-
work (Yin, 1989). We built the following analytical dimensions:
i. Conceptualization of transdisciplinarity: this dimension seeks to systematize the
way in which researchers define transdisciplinarity. Likewise, this is connected to
the different characteristics, practices, and processes that they develop in their sci-
entific work.
ii. Origins and impulses of communication among actors: this dimension identifies
how communicative processes between academic and non-academic actors began,
and it characterizes the reasons leading to their implementation.
iii. Characteristics of communicative processes: this dimension systematizes the fea-
tures of communicative processes between the Interdisciplinary Centres and non-
academic actors. These are the following: one-way communication (that begins
from a single actor), bidirectional communication (dialogue between two or more
actors), integral spaces (communication between actors that contributes to teach-
ing, extension, and research and implies a learning process for all participants in-
volved), co-construction (different actors, academic and non-academic who build
knowledge together), and diffusion platforms (such as articles, seminars, work-
shops, etc. that constitute means of dissemination to different actors).
iv. Types of actors participating in communicative processes: this dimension seeks to
recognize which non-academic actors participate in these communicative process-
es.
Table 4 details the dimensions applied. It is worth noting how these dimensions served as a
guideline for each case study, without limiting the incorporation of new dimensions that
emerged during the fieldwork process. This means that we have merged an inductive and
deductive process of analysis throughout the study.
Table 4. Dimensions and categories of analysis applied in the study. Source: the authors.
Dimensions Categories Research Question
Conceptualization
of transdiscipli-
narity
- Involving social actors
- Integrality
How is transdisciplinarity
conceptualized in the context
of the four centers under
study?
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
269
Dimensions Categories Research Question
Origins and im-
pulses of commu-
nication among
actors
- Endogenous: This is a product
of demands that come from the
academic system itself
(Huutoniemi et al., 2009).
- Exogenous: This is a product of
exogenous demands that come
from a broader social context.
How are these communica-
tive processes with diverse
social actors defined in the
four case studies?
Types of actors
participating in
communicative
processes
- Public sector: such as municipal
and national governments, de-
scentralized public bodies,
among others.
- Private sector: such as compa-
nies, cooperatives, etc.
- Civil society: social and non-
gubernamental organizations,
civil associations, among others.
How are these communica-
tive processes with diverse
social actors defined in the
four case studies?
Characteristics of
communicative
processes
- One-
way communication: the
communicative process begins
from one actor.
-
Bidirectional communication:
two or more actors actively en-
gage in a communicative pro-
cess.
- Integral space
: this process is
cross-
cut by teaching, research
and outreach activities. It is a
fundamental process for mutual
learning.
- Co-construction: different ac-
tors, academics and non-
academics, exchange and build
knowledge together.
-
Platforms for disemmination:
articles, seminars, workshops,
etc.- as means of diffusion in dif-
ferent settings and for different
audiences.
Is there common ground
among these practices among
the four centres?
In order to analyze the set of data collected, the interpretative frameworks that the re-
searchers provided in the interviews were used. Interpretive approaches assume a reality
socially constructed by different actors that in their daily interaction gives meaning to their
actions and that of their interlocutors and with it the world that surrounds them (Denzin &
Lincoln, 1994). The interpretive analysis was oriented by the above mentioned dimensions
and categories (Table 4). Our findings do not represent generalized patterns of behaviour
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
270
or established transformations, but provide elements for a deeper knowledge of the ways in
which transdisciplinary processes are carried out in Uruguay
Findings
Conceptualization of Transdisciplinarity
With these dimensions of analysis, we identified different meanings and understandings of
TD that members of the four Centres put into practice. Under the premise of addressing
and solving complex problems, we identified two different understandings and assump-
tions related to TD: (i) transdisciplinary research incorporates non-academic actors in the
production of knowledge (Lang et al., 2012) and (ii) transdisciplinary research transcends
the boundaries of disciplines (Nicolescu, 2008) building new fields of knowledge.
The conceptualizations of transdisciplinarity that influence the four Centres present some
differences among them. On the one hand, there are researchers’ conceptions of transdis-
ciplinarity that focus their attention on the interaction with non-university actors, and on
the other, we find researchers who focus their work on trying to transcend and overcome
disciplinary boundaries. This difference is vital when considering the two ways in which the
concept of transdisciplinarity has been defined in the scientific literature. The first defini-
tion considers transdisciplinarity as the process of working together with other social actors
(Lang et al., 2012), with the aim of transforming reality and addressing complex problems.
On the other hand, a second definition understands transdisciplinarity as a concept for the
construction of a knowledge unity that transcends the boundaries among disciplines. This
conceptualization of TD is associated with the work carried out by Basarab Nicolescu
(2008).
In this sense, CIEN and the MCISur understand transdisciplinarity as the process of work-
ing with social actors. It should be clarified that CINQUIFIMA also approaches this defini-
tion of transdisciplinarity in a conceptual way; however, according to the interviews it is
scarcely discussed and practiced.
Our data indicates that the MCISur believes that the field of study from where the research
problems are defined, namely the Integrated Coastal Management, is strengthened from
theoretical-conceptual development and from practice. These two spaces (theory develop-
ment and practice), in parallel, contribute to the advancement and consolidation of the
field. In such spaces, different actors play a role, coming from different fields, academic
and non-academic. Based on this heterogeneity, researchers together with social actors
frame and develop the problem and research questions. According to one interviewee: “The
coast is a complex problem, and it is a complex area, with complex problems due to the diversity of conflicts,
actors, interests. ... There is no other way to approach it ... [other than using a] transdisciplinary [approach]
because we work with actors.” (Interview 1, 2018, male). This interviewee also believed that:
For us, transdisciplinarity is not so much about erasing the boundaries of disciplines, but about integrating
non-academic actors, we belong to this school of thought. But there is always a part of erasing at least a piece
of the boundaries to mix the Centre’s members with something wider” (Interview 1, 2018, male).
In this sense, interdisciplinarity and the integration of disciplines within the Centre is a nec-
essary condition for the development of the transdisciplinary perspective, where non-
university actors are also integrated.
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
271
The CIEN, on the other hand, develops transdisciplinarity in a more explicit manner. They
develop multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary research depending on the
specific features of the problem under study. For example, when transdisciplinarity is pre-
sent and it is applied to build the research problem, it is aligned with the definition devel-
oped by European authors (Lang et al., 2012; Hirsch Hadorn et al., 2008). One female sen-
ior researcher who was interviewed expressed that “We have worked [together with social actors]
on what we are going to ask, what the objectives are going to be.... We discuss what emerges or does not
emerge.... In that sense we try to make [social actors] feel part of the investigation, sometimes we want to go
one way and they want to go for another, so sometimes [it is necessary]...to renegotiate a bit the process, too.”
(Interview, 12, 2008, female).
Transdisciplinarity is associated with the goal of transforming reality (Klein, 2014) by ap-
proaching social problems that need diverse knowledge for its resolution. The metaphor
provided by a member of CIEN is relevant: “A territory clearly denotes a delimitation of power
relations, and a specific theoretical-practical delimitation which accounts for reality. One field refers to a level
of force, a field of forces, that is articulated and built according to what is emerging, the semantics and mean-
ings that the different aspects of this field take in certain socio-historical moment. While the territory leads to
the disciplinary, the field leads to transdisciplinarity; yet there is a complementarity between them and not a
closed territory” (Interview 2, 2018).
In this way, CIEN and MCISUR share, in several aspects, the conception of transdiscipli-
narity considered under the problem-solving discourse defined by Klein (2014). One male
interviewee considered that: “I believe that we are closer, in some lines of work, to the transdisciplinary
line, and in others, more to the interdisciplinary; and in some we go towards a disciplinary line. You can
have all in the same line, you do not renounce that which is disciplinary” (Interview 22, 2018).
CINQUIFIMA, in contrast, shows an incipient development of transdisciplinary research
practices in comparison to CIEN and MCISur. Nonetheless, this Centre identifies non-
academic actors as claimants of the knowledge produced and this has led to changes in
their lines of research. Several interviewees recognized that some research streams emerged
from the linkages between social and scientific actors. For instance, CINQUIFIMA had
developed synthetic skin, with a very low cost of production. In Uruguay, there is a high
incidence of severe skin lesions (burns) in vulnerable populations, due to the type of heat-
ing systems used and the type of housing. The cost of imported synthetic dermal segments
available in the market is too high for these sectors of the population. The State cannot
afford them massively and individuals cannot bear the cost in specific cases. This seriously
compromises the likelihood of survival and subsequent quality of life for low-income peo-
ple. The results achieved by CINQUIFIMA allowed the development of a synthetic skin
prototype from soluble collagen of bovine tendon. One advantage that this type of skin has
over others existing in the market is that, through the use of nanotechnology, scientists
plan to encapsulate active products embedded in the skin. In this way, when synthetic skin
begins to be degraded by the body, the product - whether antibiotics, anti-inflammatory
drugs or analgesics - will be released gradually and topically, without the need to provide
large doses.
In terms of how CEINBIO‘s members understand the concept of TD, one senior male
researcher believes that “Etymologically speaking, [the prefix] ‘trans-’ means ‘on the other side’. Do-
ing transdisciplinary research is exactly that, implies moving onto the other side, towards the other discipline.
This entails taking from the other discipline the methods of study, the experimental strategies and even the
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
272
ways of thinking that are aligned to the original discipline or problem under study” (Interview 4, 2018).
This definition of TD is related to an overarching aim of transcending disciplinary bounda-
ries (Nicolescu, 2008).
Following this conception, this CEINBIO interviewee believed that the Center has yet not
achieved this kind of TD. “I would say that we did not arrive to that point. The nature of the work we
do, but we would need much more ambitious bets from the economic point of view.” (Interview 4,
2018).
This approach to the concept of transdisciplinarity raises differences that are reflected in
the way in which communicative processes are elaborated with non-academic actors and
decision makers.
Origins and Impulses of Communicative Processes
One factor that drives the communicative processes between actors is the possibility of
jointly addressing the social problems that affect different sectors of the population (Na-
tional Academy of Sciences, 2005). This can reduce the processes of exclusion and vulner-
ability suffered by some social groups and constitutes a characteristic for all the Centres
analyzed here. In the words of one interviewee, the approach to social problems in the con-
text of the Centre “[is] part of the path we are in. I do not think it drives us, we have also transcended
that” (Interview 14, 2018).
According to the scientific literature we have systematized (Hoffmann et al., 2017a, 2017b)
and based on some of the findings of our study, we consider that communicative processes
between actors can be grouped under two broad categories: (i) as a product of endogenous
demands that come from the academic system itself, and (ii) as a product of exogenous
demands that come from a broader social context.
The first category refers to the strategies developed by each Centre individually to promote
different modalities of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary research
(Klein, 2010). The identification of social problems and the development of research,
teaching, and extension activities constitute an important impulse for the development of
collaborative practices within each Interdisciplinary Centre, but they originated in an aca-
demic context. Hoffmann et al. (2017a) consider that, in one-way forms of communication
between actor groups, actors are informed about the research project through articles,
newspapers, policy briefs, etc., but are afforded only limited power to influence the process
and/or the outcome.
An example serves to illustrate this. The MCISur has reflected on these processes where it
is recognized that the development of the various modalities multi-, inter- and transdis-
ciplinarityconstitute forms of work that seek to establish... a new paradigm in opposition to
the fragmentation of the parts of the object(Conde et al., 2010, p. 53). The scientific production
associated with the integrated management of the coastal area seeks to fill knowledge voids
and build a new field, with a transdisciplinary approach, within UdelaR’s framework.
The second category refers to those communicative processes between actors that arise
from the broader social context and guide the Centres’ working agendas. These communi-
cative processes are related to consultation and collaboration processes (Hoffmann et al.,
2017a). Actors are asked to comment on the project development and to bring their
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
273
knowledge individually or in small groups (Hoffmann et al., 2017a). We called these pro-
cesses as exogenous. For instance, in the case of CEINBIO, answers are given to help im-
prove the problems associated with the health-disease processes of different groups. These
problems are often raised by the users themselves, or by doctors, and they constitute the
starting point to provide “... knowledge for prevention, diagnosis and treatment” (Centro Interdisci-
plinario de Investigaciones Biomédicas, 2015). In this process, the members of the Centre
recognize thatWe learned to see clinical problems from the basic area and the importance of that, ... we
have learned to access different sources of knowledge that one would not consult, because they were not direct-
ly related to clinics, and today we realize that they are worthwhile and of great value and importance(In-
terview 13, 2018).
The two types of demands generated by these communicative processes are related to each
other. When there are overlaps between the identification of social problems and the pos-
sibilities of addressing them and how different knowledge is produced to reach their resolu-
tion, the communicative processes between actors acquire different characteristics that will
be discussed later.
This has not been a simple or linear process for the Centre; on the contrary, it has been
complex, but the strong territorial anchorage this team possesses has allowed it to trans-
form the link with non-academic actors into a “naturalprocess. It is not always achieved, it is
formulated and it is not put into practice, or sometimes it is not possible to formulate everything, but it is
rare that a project does not have that degree of transdisciplinarity” (Interview 1, 2018).
Based on the impulse and origin of communicative processes, we can identify the different
actors that participate in them.
Types of Actors Participating in Communicative Processes
We identify different types of social actors who belong to different institution-
al/organizational structures and have diverse working objectives in comparison with aca-
demic actors, represented mostly by researchers.
Three types of social actors were identified: (i) public sector, (ii) private sector, and (iii) be-
longing to civil society. Figure 1 shows the social actors and the diversity of cases they rep-
resent within each Centre.
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
274
Figure 1. Social actors with whom communicative processes are established.
The communicative processes that take place between these sets of actors, academic and
non-academic, are driven by different objectives, partly mediated by the problems ad-
dressed by each Centre and by the framework in which they carry out their extension activi-
ties, teaching, and research. In some cases, communicative processes between actors are
linked to one of these three University functions; in other cases, these processes occur in
the integrated development of the aforementioned process, which we call integrality.
These actors have different roles and objectives. In the case of public policy actors, com-
munication is designed to sustain the development of policies, through the promotion of
activities that allow building the empirical evidence for policies or by adding new approach-
es and perspectives to policy making. In the case of actors in the private sphere, their ob-
jectives are mainly seeking more knowledge for the development and / or application of
new products.
Finally, civil society actors have objectives to directly address the problem in its context.
Establishing communication spaces with these different actors presupposes a commitment
of the Centres to the broader social context. In turn, the establishment of communicative
processes can mean expanding the research agendas of each Centre. It is worth mentioning
how the actors who belong to the public sector, mainly represented in the Ministries, are
present in instances of communication with all the Centres under study.
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
275
In the cases of the MCISur and CIEN, both Centres have developed an intense relation-
ship with public actors and civilian actors.
Coastal Management as a Transdisciplinary Practice
The Interdisciplinary Centre for Integrated Coastal Management of the Southern Cone
works from a transdisciplinary perspective, where researchers, decision makers, and manag-
ers of the coastal area face a cultural change in the way of constructing the concept of terri-
tory (Centro Interdisciplinario para el Manejo Costero Integrado del Cono Sur, 2011).
The territory is valued as an environmental heritage and support for the population that forms it, thus
acquiring a new and explicit cultural (socio-environmental) dimension in terms of its installed capacities and
opportunities for the improvement of the quality of life of its people. [We seek to develop] a new way of
thinking, which integrates knowledge and multiple capacities, an approach with a diversity of criteria and
processes” (Conde et al., 2010).
This approach to the territory and coastal management as an area of research, “... is some-
thing that escapes the academy” and leads to “... generate management inputs, work with the community
at the most local possible level” (Interview 11, 2018).
When it comes to communicative processes with public actors, CIEN develops various
activities, namely, (i) formal agreements to carry out periodic activities based on jointly
identified problems, (ii) advice and consultancy, and (iii) joint construction of regulations
and social action plans. In this process, CIEN has established itself as the empirical support
for the construction of the national legislation on advanced age and its ensuing issues. “To-
day CIEN is recognized outside University, we have an impact, we have carried out research financed by
the [Ministry], they have taken us into account in specific actions” (Interview 12, 2018).
In the cases of CINQUIFIMA and CEINBIO, communicative processes are developed
mainly with public and private actors.
According to the members, the process of CINQUIFIMA was transformed while it was
being consolidated as an interdisciplinary academic space. We started with ultra-basic research,
we would not leave the lab, and we were mice’. Then, we began to incorporate living things; we started ask-
ing for help outside ... As you grow up, you start leaving the lab, because your product starts coming out; ...
it is the natural way. With a clarification, I am learning in that way ... the branching out of the lab has
increased the knowledge of all the members, they call you from everywhere” (Interview 4, 2018).
In the case of CEINBIO, the communicative processes with private-sector actors can oc-
cur through ... technical consultancies and some projects with common interests(Interview 5, 2018).
In these cases, for private actors, a male member of CEINBIO considers that “it is better for
them to call us, and work on a technical report about a product(Interview 5, 2018), since they do
not have interdisciplinary units that can generate their own studies.
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
276
Characteristics of Communicative Processes
Some characteristics can be identified from the different communicative processes that are
presented in the Interdisciplinary Centres, which contribute to making visible the heteroge-
neity of processes and the linkage with different actors. Figure 2 shows the five characteris-
tics we have identified in the analyzed communicative processes and that allow their classi-
fication.
Figure 2. Characteristics of communicative processes between actors. Source: the authors.
One-way communication
When the communication occurs in one way, it links non-academic actors as sources of
qualified information about a certain topic/problem that is addressed by the academic ac-
tor. In this case, information circulates in only one direction —that is, from non-academic
actors to researchersand constitutes an input for the researchers. The results obtained
from this process have great legitimacy from an academic point of view because they con-
stitute the traditional manner in which scientific knowledge is constituted, being translated
unidirectionally to the social context.
Likewise, these processes can take the form of consultancies. For CINQUIFIMA, this is a
common practice that has allowed the integration of research topics to the Centre that were
previously absent in their agenda. This allowed for the generation of greater and better in-
put for the counselling that the Centre provides to other institutions, and to respond to the
demands of the exogenous context. CEINBIO shares this characteristic.
CEINBIO and CINQUIFIMA develop this type of communicative process, mainly based
on the relationships they have with public policy actors and /or with the private sector.
Their members consider these actors as experts who provide the necessary information in
the knowledge production process that is carried out. Here, the main aim is to exchange
information on a certain topic (Hoffmann et al., 2017a). According to the interviews and
document analysis, the knowledge produced with this information, provided by the actors
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
277
directly linked to the problem or as direct intermediaries of it, will be better applied as it
was based on their knowledge (Centro de Investigaciones Biomédicas, 2015; Interview 3,
2018).
Bidirectional Communication
The communicative processes can be fostered in a bidirectional manner, that is, by estab-
lishing a back-and-forth dialogue between the participating actors. In this sense, communi-
cation can be established over time in order to improve the common understanding among
different actors participating in this dialogue. Different circulating elements are identified,
such as knowledge and practices. This form of communication promotes the development
of active relationships between actors through the use of dialogue methods (McDonald et
al., 2009) and trust building. Non-academic actors do not place themselves in a passive role,
only providing information, but through this dialogue, the communicative process is im-
proved, allows a greater understanding between the parties, and contributes to a joint con-
struction of the problem to be addressed.
For CIEN, this process is common practice. There are demands that come from non-
academic actors, so this active dialogue seeks to be built-in within the group and these ac-
tors. In the words of one interviewee: “We have met and they have put forward concrete demands
regarding the issue of household environment and public spaces accessibility. We seek to make a joint con-
struction of problematic actions” (Interview 6, 2018).
For the MCISur, aspects of governance, such as participative, transparent, responsive, equi-
table, and inclusive, are key to its integration in the research process. This is mainly due to
the fact that the approach goal is related to the incidence and application of policy recom-
mendations. These are elaborated from the integrated diagnosis of the coastal zone. This
fact is acknowledged in one of the reports produced by this group: The guideline-design for a
management plan for the wetlands implies, within the framework of sustainable development, the necessary
participation of the different social sectors” (Caporale et al., 2010, p. 200). It is in the framework of
active participation, where social actors are linked to the problem and not only as actors
that provide information, that MCISUR is able to develop relevant knowledge production
processes.
Integral Spaces
As it was mentioned, integrality accounts for the articulation process between the three
University functions and is a perspective developed by the four case study Centres. For
some of them, the articulation of the three functions is part of the working strategy, and
therefore, there is an active search to generate integral spaces.
The MCISur has experimented increased depth in this practice, achieving results of the ut-
most interest. For example, the Master program in Integrated Coastal Management of the
Southern Cone, inaugurated in 2007 and ascribed to the Centre, is perceived by researchers
and professors as a space for experimentation and implementation of integral processes,
where research, teaching, and extension activities are jointly developed in a plural learning
setting where scientific and social actors try to build a common understanding of the prob-
lem under study. The Master’s program has acquired a particular profile, constituting a plat-
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
278
form to promote synergies between different social actors; among them the decision mak-
ers of the coastal area of the Maldonado Department.
“The main objective [of the Master Program] is to train professionals who, beyond their previous training in
a specific discipline, are specially qualified to approach coastal management from a critical, interdisciplinary
and participatory perspective.” (Álava, 2014, p. 66)
The Master’s Degree is based on the conceptual field of integrated coastal management,
which has been adapted to the conditions of the region and Uruguay. This is framed in the
context of the continuous need to build new knowledge with an interdisciplinary base. Ac-
tors with practical experience on the ground engage in dialogue with the students and pro-
fessors from different disciplines that participate in this space. As a result, practices of
transdisciplinary research are being developed.
For CIEN, specific activities are proposed for each of the Centre’s streams, seeking as a
goal the development and implementation of a comprehensive interdisciplinary model.
What is our ideal? A teacher who investigates, who produces, who is linked to the environment and who
takes on the teaching starting from there. However, this ideal is in fact not a reality; in some cases more,
and in others much less. We have it set as a horizon(Interview 2, 2018). This Centres premise is
that the development of transdisciplinary research affects all practices that develop univer-
sity teachers. Teaching, and not only research, is permeated by the communicative process-
es between different actors within the research streams that the Centre develops.
The implementation of integral spaces is complex and is not always performed with the
same intensity. The Universidad de la República has created some evaluation mechanisms
for these spaces, but they still require a greater systematization of results (Martínez, Vienni,
Cruz, & Repetto, 2015). The integration of the three university functions affects the com-
municative processes. The construction of a link among actors, who represent the different
angles of the problem under study, is explicitly sought. This is related to the concept of
University extension, which involves the political relationships with actors that generate
demands on the knowledge production processes and that represent the social groups re-
lated to the problem under study.
We provide an example from the MCISUR. This is part of the practical work developed by
students and social actors within the framework of the Master’s Program in Integrated
Coastal Management, already mentioned before. Students have to design and develop a
concrete transdisciplinary project together with social actors that have identified the prob-
lem in their region. The resolution of social problems is a driving force for the develop-
ment of transdisciplinary communicative processes in Maldonado, a department in the
eastern region of Uruguay. These projects portray some forms of integration between
teaching, research, and extension processes; that is, the integration of university functions
or integrality.
“… part of the process implied important efforts to improve the group dynamics and to arrive at a
common goal, which allowed to overcome the disciplinary limitations. For this, the alternating
leadership of the different members throughout the work process was fundamental” (Brum et al.,
2010, p. 156).
Based on interdisciplinary integration (team of students and teachers) and integration with
social actors, the cases sought to apply the MCI (Integrated Coastal Management Plan,
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
279
MCI for its acronym in Spanish) approach while taking into account the need for sustaina-
bility of the coast against different uses, both social and economic, that are carried out.
“The process was very challenging, and teamwork and knowledge construction hinted that acts of
communication - speech, listening and silence - and the attitude of dialogue, respect and humility
and make the difference of knowledge that is built.” (Goyos, Lagos, Verrastro, & de Álava,
2011, p. 246).
The main objective of one of the projects, entitled “Modalities of integration in the Inte-
grated Coastal Management Plan of the stream Solís Chico Coast and the stream Solís
Grande (Canelones)” (Conde et al., 2011), was to simulate a specific case of design and ap-
plication of the Integrated Coastal Management Plan in the area between the Solís Chico
and Solís Grande (Canelones, Uruguay) streams during the period from 2008-2009. The
team was composed of students of the Master’s program and regional actors. In relation to
the articulation with the learning process, one of the team members mentioned that we had
different subjects in which the different thematic products that we were asked to associate with the case
study” (Interview 6, 2018).
The group of researchers, who also participated in this project, inquired primarily about the
information available from the area where the work was carried out, and then designed a
diagnosis for the territory. The methodologies applied were participant observation, field
trips, bibliographic review, analysis of secondary information, semi-structured interviews
with local actors, and members of public and private institutions operating in the area.
An interesting aspect of this project is that the team assumes the action research as an in-
quiry format. The objective of the action research is not only the approach of a research
problem, but simultaneously the intervention on the problem. Specifically, in this case, the
action research allowed the generation of new knowledge to the research team. According
to Hidalgo (2014), integrality —understood as the transcendence of a simple sum of the
functions of teaching, extension, and research— fosters a profound change in the ways of
focusing activities in the academic field.
Co-production: A Process of Transformation
The co-production of knowledge (Jasanoff, 2004), is considered as a way of hybridizing
knowledge, values, and interests that are associated to achieve a more complete acquisition
of the intended goals of research. The co-production of knowledge emphasizes the process
of interaction between various actors in the framework of knowledge production. Science
is not understood as a simple reflection of the truth about nature or as an epiphenomenon
of social and political interest (Jasanoff, 2004). Recognizing the process of co-production
involves accepting the interlinkage of social, economic, and cultural aspects in the political
and the social spheres. This generates transformations in institutions, people (researchers
and social actors outside the academic sphere), the language used and co-produced in that
space, the collective discourse, and the applicability of the results / knowledge generated.
According to Jasanoff (2004), co-production is much more a language than a theory. It
constitutes a way of interpreting and accounting for complex phenomena to avoid the sup-
pressions and strategic omissions of most other approaches in the social sciences. The co-
production language emphasizes the intertwining of the cognitive, the material, the social,
and the normative.
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
280
The processes among actors, where multiple exchanges are generated, presuppose a re-
newed commitment within a broader context. The different actors with whom interaction
relationships are established, push the frontiers of science in new directions and challenge
the identities and interests of both sides (Hess, Breyman, Campbell, & Martin, 2008). This
implies an opening towards the need to expand the potential to answer new questions
and/or solve problems that are beyond the capacity of a laboratory or a scientific discipline.
This opening allows us to incorporate external knowledge and encourage the participation
of heterogeneous experts, recognizing their own characteristics and revaluing them. In this
way, the crossings can be diverse not only between researchers and other social actors, but
also between different disciplines, being able to generate transdisciplinary processes.
The co-production of knowledge establishes specific communicative processes and shares
with transdisciplinarity the goal of transgressing (Klein, 2004) the concept of traditional
research and teaching (Vilsmaier et al., 2017). These types of practices are observed in
CIEN and the MCISur, as part of their objectives and work methodology.
A member of CIEN details:
In the retirement line ... we set up a teaching device that has one line of intervention and another
of research....In the intervention, we are constantly negotiating with the NGO; therefore, we also
put together a research-action proposal to understand how the retirement movement has been
built.... In this sense, we try that [the elderly] get involved in the research” (Interview 7, 2018).
To promote these co-production practices, different platforms are used: meetings, the set-
ting up of workshops, and an elderly adults “voice” compilation. Regarding these practices,
we have a tool we are seeing how to articulate, it is a conceptual tool: the life course paradigm, so as to be
able to combine that macro social perspective with the micro social study” (Interview 7, 2018).
In the case of the MCISur, the development of the co-production of knowledge is an es-
sential part of the researchers’ work, for they integrate the diverse knowledge that comes
from different actors. This has a dual purpose. On the one hand, it seeks to promote a
higher level of result appropriation by social actors, making knowledge useful to their
needs. By result appropriation, we mean those situations where social actors make results
their own and apply them in their everyday life.
On the other hand, integration leads to reverse paths in the knowledge production by de-
veloping theory from practice. One of the group members explains this process as defined
by the MCISUR:
“[the participation of social actors] had two great entry points: One at the beginning, as qualified
informants, ... where they were asked about concerns, problems and fears about climate change
and natural events, that was like an input for methodology; ... the lexicon was adapted so they
understood what was being discussed and could conceptualize what we wanted to ask; ... first they
were asked what things were important in the lagoon, and what they thought were the problems.
Then ... more concrete things that we refined or prioritized, partly in accordance with what they
told us; we went to see what was of higher or lesser relevance to them; after that, a whole compo-
nent about their life history that had to do with the vulnerability of these groups in the face of these
changes” (Interview 8, 2018).
In this case, MCISUR members were key actors in the process of developing a sustainable
management plan for Laguna de Rocha in Maldonado (Uruguay). The project involved dif-
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
281
ferent local actors and authorities who have dichotomic visions on how to better improve
the area and its conservation.
This dynamic presents a bidirectional process where not only information and knowledge
circulate among actors, but they are integrated by producing knowledge as a whole. Co-
production is proposed as a goal and is posed in the process a permanent interaction. As
defined by one interviewee: It is difficult for us not to carry out an activity that is not for outside,
everything is thought out for some user” (Interview 17, 2018).
Platforms for Dissemination
Platforms for the dissemination of communicative processes between actors are divided
into two broad categories: (i) under a traditional academic format (articles, books, or re-
ports) and (ii) in a format geared towards a wider audience.
All the Centres register dissemination activities of their results and products under the tra-
ditional academic format, including articles, books, and chapters. It is interesting to observe
how, despite the fact that the four Centres develop this type of diffusion, for CIEN and the
MCISur these traditional platforms are not so useful for the communicative processes im-
plemented and for the new fields of study they develop.
We are rethinking this system because we need to have an impact on the academic world, one we
are not having, and this is something that we have to guide in what is left of CIEN. It also has
to do with the degree of academic development in the field of Gerontology and Aging” (Interview
2, 2018).
The challenge for both Centres lies in how to legitimize themselves in the Uruguayan scien-
tific system by testing transdisciplinary communicative processes, for the national scientific
system has not yet reflected on these processes and does not legitimize them as valid in the
traditional knowledge production system. On the other hand, knowledge diffusion in a
broader sense the set of practices that constitute the second category described here –
can use different communication platforms, such as workshops to co-produce reports and
articles together. When processes begin to actively incorporate non-academic actors, dis-
semination platforms are also produced together. For the MCISur and CIEN, dissemina-
tion strategies vary since the academic format is “translated” for this audience through
training courses/workshops.
Discussion and Conclusions
Through the analysis of the four Centres we can account for different characteristics of
communicative processes among actors that promote transdisciplinarity at different levels
within each Centre. The communicative processes among different actors have broadened
the base of knowledge production modes by the characteristics they acquire and the way
they contribute to the diversification of the topics and questions addressed.
Table 1 has compared different features of the concept of TD with those that constitute
the concept of integrality in Uruguay. We find that there is a correlation between the prac-
tices these Centres focus on and the concept of transdisciplinarity developed in other aca-
demic Centres. Integral practices aim at developing a mutual learning process to accom-
plish the transformation of reality and the resolution of complex problems that different
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
282
social actors face. To achieve this goal, different participative methods are applied and so-
cial actors play an active role in the process of knowledge production. Transdisciplinarity
shares these aims and features. It is defined as a functional-dynamic collaboration of disci-
plines and social actors to investigate and handle complex or real-world problems (Pohl et
al., 2017). Some of the project examples we have provided here were developed as integral
spaces but they also share the mission of shared-collaborative processes as in transdiscipli-
nary knowledge production processes.
Table 5 summarizes the characteristics of communicative processes among actors and how
they are presented in each of the Centres. Two possible types are translated from this table
in the development of communicative processes between actors, and they define the differ-
ent ways in which transdisciplinarity can be understood within the Uruguayan academic
context.
Table 5. Summary of the analysis dimensions applied to the four Centres and
their coincidence according to two periods (x- stands for less prominent presence o
f this type of communicative process in the Centre`s activities; x+ stands for high
predominance of this type).
2010 -2016
2015-2021
C-MCISur
CINQUIFIMA
CIEN
CEINBIO
Types of actors participating in communicative processes
With the public sector x x x x
With the private sector x x
Civil society x x
Characteristics of communicative processes
One-way communication x x
Bidirectional communication x x- x x-
Integral spaces x+ x
Co-construction x+ x
Platforms for dissemination –
Academic format
x x+ x x+
Platforms for dissemination –
Wide format
x x x x
In the Uruguayan case studied here, one communicative process between actors seeks to
provide solutions to identified social problems, exogenously or endogenously, and affects
certain populations. In this process, the interaction between actors acquires specific roles
where each one identifies in a place, being the main objective of this process to revert these
identified problems —or to at least contribute to their resolution— and to produce
knowledge. Another communicative process is one that integrates, at different times, non-
academic actors in different roles; not only as qualified informants, but also as knowledge
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
283
producers. Both types account for differences in the ways in which transdisciplinary re-
search can achieve integrality.
These characteristics are mostly shared in several Latin American universities (Vienni Bap-
tista, Vasen, and Villa Soto; 2018) and expand the concept of transdisciplinarity that can be
adapted to this context. Our study finds the need for dialogue between perspectives and
the consolidation of a theoretical framework that allows the integration of extension prac-
tices as plausible initiatives to be considered as transdisciplinary. Future investigations are
necessary to further delve into these findings.
Transdisciplinarity adds a new level of reflection to knowledge production processes, relat-
ed to the resolution of multidimensional problems, and the development of research meth-
ods that can respond to them (Bergmann et al., 2012, Klein, 2014). Expanding the ways in
which scientific knowledge is produced, rethinking who participates in its production, and
who is authorized to state the objectives and research questions put in motion an interac-
tion among different types of knowledge and experience and create challenges through
which UdelaR is currently treading. It is in this framework of changes and impulses of new
processes where the Centres analyzed here are located.
Integrality involves tensions, typical of the processes of change within Universidad de la
República that seek to expand the ways in which knowledge is produced and put into prac-
tice processes that have been theoretically reflected upon. This aspect is of great relevance
for the development of research at UdelaR, since it allows the consolidation of more dem-
ocratic practices (Arocena, 2014) through integrality and even a new definition of what is
traditionally named as research (Vilsmaier et al., 2017). Likewise, this new conceptualization
of the links and processes of communication with actors imprints certain characteristics,
which provide relevant lessons for other university contexts where inter- and transdiscipli-
narity are developed. For example, other Latin American universities and research centres
can reflect on integral processes as a basis for the definition of transdisciplinarity and its
development.
Our analysis found how, in the process of knowledge co-production, there are transfor-
mations which permeate the institutions, the relationships among actors, the collective dis-
course, and especially the individuals that experience them. The processes developed under
the concept of integralitywere part of a University Reform that seeks to build a more
profound relationship between scientific and social actors. The Reform implied sweeping
changes in the way teaching, research, and outreach are developed in Uruguay and also de-
manded institutional transformation to accompany those changes. This has also been stud-
ied for groups in North America (Lotrecchiano, 2014) and Europe (Vilsmaier et al., 2017).
Regarding the third element that Klein (2010) defines as a main feature in the definition of
transdisciplinarity, namely the transgression of borders, the four cases analyzed here con-
firm that they have worked hard to move the edges of the disciplines to find a third space
(Bhabha, 1994; Vilsmaier et al., 2017) where the knowledge production is carried out not
only for others, but also with others”. This space, in Uruguay named as EFI or integral
space, is composed of practices that combine study programs, as in the case of the Master
program in Integrated Coastal Management, and in different extension initiatives, as evi-
denced by the workshops developed by CIEN together with elderly adults. Also, our study
has relieved the development of new research methods to consolidate transdisciplinary
Communication in Transdisciplinary Teams
284
work and communicative processes with other actors that do not necessarily use academic
vocabulary. This is related to the strong orientation to solving complex or multidimensional
problems, a characteristic that Klein (2010) also elaborates to account for transdisciplinary
discourses. In the Uruguayan context, this objective of resolving problems that cannot be
solved from a single discipline entails the characteristic of integrality in the three university
functions.
Returning to the question asked at the beginning of this chapter: what can we learn about
communication and communicative processes in different cultural contexts? We consider
that transdisciplinarity, as a concept and as a way of working, is a flexible and plural term
that allows integrating practices that transgress the frontiers of research, and even the pro-
cesses of linkage among actors. The evidence suggests that transdisciplinarity in Uruguayan
research is being developed under other labels, and this fact does not necessarily impede
the framing of research oriented towards societal issues. We conclude that communicative
processes developed in inter- and transdisciplinary research are heterogeneous in terms of
the actors and the contexts where they are developed. Nonetheless, these activities can be
related to some features of the concept of TD, as we have shown in Table 1.
The systematized lessons of this study are two. On the one hand, there is an urgent need to
open new spaces for communication among researchers from different regions and coun-
tries, as a way of reflecting not only on concepts, but also on practices. There is a call for a
theoretical-methodological discussion that promotes new formats of knowledge produc-
tion, yet that also recognizes other formats of great academic validity, which have been de-
veloped for more than thirty years in peripheral countries such as Uruguay. On the other
hand, the second lesson learned from this analysis is to admit the legitimacy of non-
traditional practices of doing science, which are often simplified as multi- or interdiscipli-
nary, because they use those terms as a way to identify themselves. In order to analyze
these practices and discourses in depth we have proposed the usefulness of a field named
Studies on Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity (Vienni Baptista, 2016a, 2017b). This
field may well pose some of the questions that remain open for future research as its own.
Questions to Further the Discourse
1. What is the impact of transdisciplinary research on processes of knowledge pro-
duction in which different actors are invited to participate?
2. What is the relevance of transdisciplinary work for studies on development in Lat-
in American countries such as Uruguay?
3. How can transdisciplinary communicative processes be taxonomized in an aca-
demic context? Are specific methodologies required for this?
Acknowledgements
The authors want to thank the four Interdisciplinary Centres of the Universidad de la Repúbli-
ca, that accepted to be part of this study, namely: (i) Centro Interdisciplinario de Nano-
tecnología, Química y Física de los Materiales (CINQUIFIMA; Interdisciplinary Centre for
Nanotechnology, Chemistry, and Physical Analysis of Materials), (ii) Centro Interdiscipli-
nario de Manejo Costero Integrado del Cono Sur (MCISur; Interdisciplinary Centre for
Integrated Coastal Management of the Southern Cone), (iii) Centro Interdisciplinario de
Chapter 9: Transdisciplinary Communication in Research Teams
285
Investigaciones Biomédicas (CEINBIO; Interdisciplinary Centre for Biomedical Research);
and (iv) Centro Interdisciplinario de Envejecimiento (CIEN; Interdisciplinary Centre on
Aging). We also thank their members, managers and administrative officials for supporting
the project at all times, accepting to be interviewed and opening the doors to their work.
Teachers and researchers belonging to these groups have provided valuable information
and insights, as well as rich backgrounds for this research.
To the Comisión Sectorial de Investigación Científica and the Comisión Central de Dedicación Total
(Universidad de la República, Uruguay) for providing the funding for the project “The produc-
tion of interdisciplinary knowledge in the Universidad de la República: modalities, integration
and evaluation processes” (2017 2019).
To the Espacio Interdisciplinario (Universidad de la República, Uruguay), for providing the neces-
sary institutional framework for developing this research project.
To Prof. Dr. Franco Simini, for his support in the administrative continuity of the proposal
and to Dr. Ismael Rafols (INGENIO, University of Valencia, Spain) for his academic
counselling and support.
To the editors, for their valuable comments and suggestions on this chapter.
Must Reads
Arocena, R., Göransson, B., & Sutz, J. (2015). Knowledge policies and universities in
developing countries: Inclusive development and the “developmental university.”
Technology in Society, 41, 10-20.
Arocena, R., & Sutz, J. (2016). Development studies as in interdisciplinary field: Research,
teaching, and institutional building in Uruguay. Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies, Association
for Interdisciplinary Studies, 34, 164-182.
Klein, J. T. (2016). Conclusion: Expanding international dialogue on interdisciplinarity.
Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies, Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, 34, 200-207.
Vienni Baptista, B. (2016). Interdisciplinarity in Latin America: Building dialogue through
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