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ÖREBRO UNIVERSITY MÄLARDALEN UNIVERSITY Centre for Housing and Urban Research Series ISBN: 978-91-7668-708-6 ISSN: 1653-1531 Report number 64 2009
Crossing boundaries: the framing of transdisciplinarity
Summary .....................................................................................................................................3 1. Introduction .............................................................................................................................5 1.1 Aim and research questions..............................................................................................6 1.2 Method, material and approaches for analysis .................................................................6 1.2.1 Literature review, document analysis and interviews ..............................................7 1.2.2 Analytical approach .................................................................................................9 1.3 Conceptual clarifications..................................................................................................10 1.4 Outline..............................................................................................................................11 2. Crossing disciplines: history and concepts ..............................................................................12 2.1 History of cross-disciplinarity ..........................................................................................12 2.2 Core concepts for describing cross-disciplinary approaches ............................................17 2.2.1 Multidisciplinarity....................................................................................................21 2.2.2 Interdisciplinarity.....................................................................................................22 2.2.3 Transdisciplinarity ...................................................................................................25 2.3 An analytical framework for cross-disciplinary approaches.............................................29 3 Transdisciplinary research ........................................................................................................32 3.1 Drivers for transdisciplinarity ..........................................................................................33 3.1.1 Knowledge economy ...............................................................................................34 3.1.2 Environmental imperative........................................................................................35 3.1.3 Engaged population .................................................................................................36 3.2 Characteristic features of transdisciplinarity ....................................................................37 3.2.1 Problem focus ..........................................................................................................39 3.2.2 Collaboration ...........................................................................................................43 3.2.3 Evolving methodology.............................................................................................47 3.3 ‘Transdisciplinarity’ and the embryo of two different kinds ............................................52 4. Urban Futures: A call for a transdisciplinary research programme .........................................57 4.1 Mistra call for Sustainable Urban Futures........................................................................58 4.2 Research group responses to the Mistra call.....................................................................59 4.2.1 International Centre for Urban Transformation, Stockholm ....................................60 4.2.2 Centre for Sustainable Urban Transformation, Malmö ............................................62 4.2.3 The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures.........................64 4.3 Actors, methods and the transdisciplinary approach ........................................................68 4.3.1 Actors, actors’ roles and work on methods ..............................................................68 4.3.2. The transdisciplinary approach ...............................................................................72 5. Transdisciplinary research of two kinds? ................................................................................74 PostScript ....................................................................................................................................76 Literature .....................................................................................................................................77 Acknowledgements .....................................................................................................................85
The transdisciplinary approach appeared to deal with cooperation of two kinds. A distinction is thus made between a responding approach and a participatory approach. Three major approaches towards cross-disciplinarity (multidisciplinarity. it proved possible to outline fundamental differences between them with respect to the form of cooperation.Summary This report deals with the establishment of transdisciplinary research. This analysis. the emphasis is placed on transdisciplinarity. between disciplines and between researchers and practitioners. the nature of collaboration. These two forms of transdisciplinarity form the basis for a final analysis of the three proposals for a transdisciplinary research centre for urban futures. the history of cross-disciplinary approaches is acknowledged. In clarifying the meaning of transdisciplinarity. Although these three concepts are interrelated. which is grounded in international literature on transdisciplinarity. and the methodological approaches are also investigated. Three different apparent drivers behind transdisciplinarity are acknowledged: knowledge economy. The main features compromising the problem-focused approach. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity) are identified and an analytical framework is presented for distinguishing between these three approaches. which reinforces the interpretation of different kinds of transdisciplinarity. emphasises the need to distinguish between various kinds of transdisciplinarity. environmental imperative and engaged population. and the two forms of transdisciplinarity are labelled responding and participatory transdisciplinarity. In the following analysis. a research approach that is pivotal in contemporary knowledge production. This need emerges from the implications of different interpretations on how collaboration with practitioners should be pursued. 3 .
innovative knowledge. Jacob & Hellström 2000. the foundation for defining different approaches to cross-disciplinarity has been the degree of integration. but what is ‘transdisciplinarity’ and how is it related to other concepts describing a cross-disciplinary approach. Ziman 2000. threat against research independence and objectivity. Schmidt 2008.4 In the research strategies from Swedish funding agencies. fragmentisation.3 In the latest government bill on research policy in Sweden. e.1 Besides using a concept for something that could be distinguished from disciplinary research. multidisciplinarity or interdisciplinarity? Historically. Stakeholder involvement is possibly an even stronger characteristic than transdisciplinarity in contemporary knowledge production. 5 See e.g. 4. 5 . Thompson-Klein 1990.) 2000. interdisciplinarity is called for or acknowledged as being of major importance or even as the path-breaking approach to new. see Hessels & van Lente 2008. Vetenskapsrådets forskningsstrategi 2009-2012 p.g. 4 Governmental Bill 2008/09:50 p.g. the motives or drivers behind research.1. and insufficient strength to make long-term and jointly strategic investments.g. SSF.g. or the relationship between science and society (or researchers and practitioners). e. However. insufficient commercialisation. 1. 3 Gibbons et al. expressed through stakeholder involvement in research activities. for instance. p. Delanty 2001. Formas forskningsstrategi 2009-2012 p. Wiengart and Stehr (eds. 4. 6 See e. 1994.6 Depen1 2 See e. Hessels & van Lente 2008. theories of contemporary knowledge production also emphasise a changing relationship between science and society. there are also other approaches emphasising. Introduction Transdisciplinarity and other forms of cross-disciplinary approaches have risen to prominence during recent decades.5 Great hopes are attached to the concept of ‘transdisciplinarity’. 19.2 This orientation of knowledge production is for instance labelled Mode 2 or post-academic knowledge production. Strategisk plan. The other five challenges are: insufficient quality. This is evident not least in literature on research policy and can be considered a global trend. Thompson-Klein 1996. ‘lack of interdisciplinarity’ is perceived as one of six major challenges for Swedish research.
The year 2004 was chosen because in 2003 I carried out a review of the literature about cross-disciplinary approaches and as such had a foundation to rely 6 . so restrictions had to be placed on the scope of this study. material and approaches for analysis This report is primarily based on literature dealing with crossdisciplinarity in general and interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in particular. It also examines drivers for. The main focus here is on recent literature (i. and discusses methodological approaches for carrying out transdisciplinary research. Cross-disciplinary approaches have a long history and the amount of literature in the area is far beyond what a single person can read. different understandings and definitions can be outlined on the concept of transdisciplinarity. we analyse the formation of research programmes aimed at being transdisciplinary.ding on the aspects taken into consideration.1 Aim and research questions The aims of this report were to clarify the meaning of transdisciplinarity and analyse the formation of it in contemporary research practice. and features of. 1. Basic questions were: • Which motives and drivers are there for cross-disciplinarity in general and transdisciplinarity in particular? • How should we understand transdisciplinarity on the basis of international literature? • Which different approaches are taken in order to establish a transdisciplinary research programme and how do these relate to the understanding expressed in international literature on transdisciplinarity? 1. or deals with the interconnections between transdisciplinarity and sustainable development. 2004 onwards) published in English-speaking journals or books that is either generally about transdisciplinarity or its comparative concepts. This report aims to clarify the meaning of these understandings and definitions.e. Besides analysing literature on transdisciplinarity. transdisciplinarity. using three proposals responding to the funding agency Mistra’s call for Urban Futures.2 Method.
http://www. http://www.8 These journals publish articles twice a year and are not available in ‘science direct’. in literature. Moran 2002. education – lies beyond the scope of this work. where there is definitely common ground concerning the understanding of transdisciplinarity. Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies.ingentaconnect.journal-tes. and Environmental Science & Policy. 1. what it considers to be key articles from the 7 For an overview in medicine. 2007.2. Research Policy. humanities Thompson-Klein 1990. Although the use of transdisciplinarity in these other fields – for instance medicine.g. Ecological Economics. e. scenariometh*.1 Literature review. the Swiss td-net was significant. The most important journals were Futures.org/ 7 . since it lists e. This analysis encompassed the three main proposals and focused on the approach to interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.ijtr. see Kueffer et al.dk/ . the thoughts expressed in this report are to certain degree applicable to these fields.g. 8 For an overview of publication culture in relation to transdisciplinarity. a smaller empirical investigation was made of the funding agency Mistra’s call for a transdisciplinary research programme in the area of Urban Futures.7 As a complement to analysing literature on transdisciplinarity. but post their publications openly on their respective websites. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews and International Journal of Transdisciplinary Research. document analysis and interviews Literature on transdisciplinarity was mainly sought through using the full-text database ‘science direct’ and through reading titles and keywords in journals that frequently publish articles about the subject.9 Furthermore. some specialist journals were also included. 9 See http://www. in education. literature. The different forms of material and my approach to the analysis are described in detail in the following section. science. Besides these. Kessel & Rosenfield 2008. case-study were added.upon as regards earlier literature. The keywords used were transdisc* and interdisc*. Interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are well-used concepts in many other areas besides environmental and sustainable development.com/content/maney/isr . backcasting. while for finding articles on methods. concepts such as method*.
the snowball effect is also very important. 5 May 2008. Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research. that one source gives other sources to read through its reference list. the analysis had to be limited to larger research agencies and research agencies important for sustainable development or environmental research.e. and The Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra). The project manager and I decided to adopt another approach and instead focused on the formation of transdisciplinary research. I surveyed Swedish funding agencies’ conception of transdisciplinarity and other cross-disciplinary approaches. I collected strategic documents and/or guidebooks for applying research funding from Swedish funding agencies. 1. which received grants to develop 10 11 http://www. i. analysed the concepts used and examined whether any further descriptions are given on how to interpret or work with cross-disciplinary approaches.11 This call came in May 2008 and from seven pre-proposals Mistra chose three. Research and Innovation for Sustainable Growth. The intention was to carry out a thorough analysis of these documents. This provided substantial references from the early 2000s. Mistra.period 2005-2008. The empirical data were taken from Mistra’s call for the establishment of a research centre on Urban Futures.ch/e/Publications/ Urban Futures – call for pre-proposal.10 Besides these ways of searching for literature. Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. Due to Sweden’s multifaceted field of funding agencies. but the funding agencies use a variety of concepts without giving any further descriptions or definitions and thus a deeper analysis of the funding agencies’ conceptions required substantial amounts of other forms of empirical material. Besides analysing literature. 8 . The centre is intended to be interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary and should have ‘a clear geographical centre of gravity in one city or urban region and be organised by a local or regional consortium composed of one or more Swedish universities. p. The agencies investigated were: Swedish Research Council. at least one city.transdisciplinarity. The Swedish Research Council Formas. public bodies and business stakeholders’.
12 See Mistra homepage: www.2. as well as obtaining each author’s view on the main features in transdisciplinary research and suitable methods for performing it. since transdisciplinarity – as most other concepts – is under continuous change. I interviewed the main author of each proposal by telephone and recorded their responses. The literature review was carried out in order to describe the field of cross-disciplinarity in general and transdisciplinarity in particular. Literature. but also concerning the core features of transdisciplinarity. sustainable development) were established. The interviews lasted approximately 40 minutes and aimed to clarify thoughts expressed in the proposal. there were three different forms of data – literature. research proposals and interviews. so limitations in time or in relation to a specific subject area (e. 1. This review focused on (1) how to define transdisciplinarity and relate this concept to other concepts used for categorising a crossdisciplinary approach. As a complement to reading the proposals.major proposals.12 The major proposals were submitted to Mistra in April 2009 and it is these three proposals that were investigated here. Hence.g. The focus for the analysis of the three proposals was their respective orientation towards transdisciplinarity in terms of content and methodological approaches.mistra. This analytical framework should not to be regarded as definitive. The reading material revealed the patterns of different approaches to cross-disciplinarity and transformed this pattern into an analytical framework that helped to distinguish between different approaches towards transdisciplinarity (and related concepts of multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity). Each of these is described below with respect to the analytical approach used. the aim was not to conduct a complete review of literature but to identify common terminology that could be used to distinguish various forms of cross-disciplinary approaches.org 9 . Huge numbers of scientific articles are available in the area of transdisciplinarity.2 Analytical approach Within the empirical data used for this report. and (2) methodological approaches for working transdisciplinary.
13 14 Balsiger 2004. The analysis should not be regarded as an evaluation of the proposals but as a way to understand the notion of transdisciplinarity and the approaches chosen to match this notion. Cross-disciplinary: This term is used to denominate an overall approach for interdisciplinary research. discipline boundaries). Overall. Interviews. Analysing the research proposals. and the methods that are pointed out as being important for the transdisciplinary approach.14 although the concept has not received wide acceptance. In the interviews. while cross-disciplinary is orientated towards crossing some boundary (in this context. technical and social sciences. 10 . See e.3 Conceptual clarifications Science: In this report science is used to refer to natural. the actors that are mentioned as being important for cooperation in the programme and the roles they are ascribed. 1.Research proposals. the examination of the different forms of empirical data resulted in a final categorisation of the different approaches towards transdisciplinarity taken in the proposals and in literature. supradisciplinary can be associated with a superior approach. the emphasis lay on the meaning of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity and methodological approaches for transdisciplinarity. as well as asking specific questions in order to clarify obscurities in the proposals. Jantsch 1972. I therefore examined the proposals in terms of the following themes: how interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are defined and described. The disadvantage with cross-disciplinary is that the term is sometimes used for labelling a particular form of interdisciplinary activity.13 I prefer the term crossdisciplinary due to its more neutral connotation.g. the investigation centred on the formation of transdisciplinary research and the different approaches used. Another term sometimes used for this general approach is supradisciplinary. as well as the humanities.
This section is based on international literature on transdisciplinarity and begins with depicting three different motives behind transdisciplinarity. 11 . which constitute the foundation for analysing the responses of three research groups to the Mistra call for a transdisciplinary research centre. with whom collaboration is intended to be conducted and the methods that ought to support the transdisciplinary research process. It ends with an analytical framework for outlining the different approaches to crossdisciplinarity. Section 5 summarises the main points in Sections 2-4 and combines these with the experiences from the literature review and the empirical findings. collaboration and evolving methodology.4 Outline In the following. core features of transdisciplinarity are investigated: problem focus. Thereafter. Section 3 ends by outlining two different forms of transdisciplinarity. section 2 deals with the history of cross-disciplinary approaches and various concepts for categorising these. This analysis is conducted in Section 4 and is orientated towards how the transdisciplinary approach is defined.1. Section 3 probes deeper into the concept of transdisciplinarity. The focus lies on clarifying the different interpretations made on transdisciplinarity and how the two different forms of transdisciplinarity can help clarify the conception of transdisciplinarity in contemporary knowledge production.
nevertheless. 2. Sandström 2003 p. The section concludes with a presentation of how to understand and relate to the three major concepts used for labelling various forms of cross-disciplinarity. 2. Crossing disciplines: history and concepts This section provides an overview of the history of cross-disciplinarity. 2). which includes organisational. Salter & Hearn 1996 pp.17 Salter and Hearn emphasise that a discipline ought to be understood simultaneously as a branch of knowledge and as a means for social control. the division of disciplines is not static and changes over time. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. 46-47. as well as describing the different approaches to cross-disciplinarity that have made a substantial impact in the literature. Due to the close relationship between interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity the emphasis lies on these two concepts. 15 12 .16 Buanes and Jentoft.2. Thompson-Klein 1996 pp. 16 See e. where we will probe deeper into the concept of transdisciplinarity. as well as in institutional settings. Moran 2002 p. social and cultural dimensions. namely multidisciplinarity. 240. 17-18. but several authors acknowledge that a discipline is delineated by differences in theory. the cognitive and the normative perspective. Thompson-Klein 1996 pp. put the institutional settings in the foreground and analyse ‘interdisciplinarity’ from the regulative.15 There is no single or easy answer to that question. for instance. The section is based on literature on cross-disciplinary approaches and provides a foundation for the following section.g. 38-42. One driving force behind the development of disciplines is specialisation. 18 Salter & Hearn 1996 p.1 History of cross-disciplinarity Crossing disciplines – what does it mean? In literature about crossdisciplinarity a basic question refers to the idea of what a discipline is.18 Talking about crossdisciplinarity is thus relative to the notion of a discipline. 17 Buanes & Jentoft 2009. methods and conceptual framework. See also Moran 2002 who argues that interdisciplinarity presupposes some kind of critical awareness of the relationship between power and control inherent in the disciplinary structure (p. 16-25.
19 The underlying notion is that scientific activities divide and structure the world in a reductionist way in order to be able to acquire specialist knowledge on single parts. Nevertheless.The disciplinary structure as an effect of division and specialisation was conceived as problematic already in Ancient Greek philosophy. Hirsch Hadorn et al. One major reason behind the call for cross-disciplinarity is the tendency for modern science towards specialisation and fragmentation. Ramadier 2004 p. Thompson-Klein 2004b.g. See e. How this synthesising work can or ought to be done has a major impact on the notion of cross-disciplinarity. Pohl 2008 p. Thompson-Klein 1996 pp. 425. The counterpart would be to search for a more holistic approach. Schmidt 2008 pp. introduction. 21 See e.g. 20. Crossdisciplinary research is called for with the perceived aim of being capable of transcending the disciplinary boundaries and dealing with complex issues. crossMoran 2002. which cross-disciplinarity could fulfil.20 This argument is based on a conception that societal problems are complex and need cross-disciplinary investigations in order to be better understood and managed. particularly its tendency to specialisation. passim. 122. a more common notion is instead orientated towards adjusting the negative effects from this specialisation through synthesising research and integrating knowledge from different disciplinary perspectives. To simplify. within the call for cross-disciplinary research there is an underlying criticism of the modern conception of science. this does not imply that all cross-disciplinary research takes a scientific approach in another conception of science. 7-8. 57-58. 2008b p. 57. its meaning and challenges. 20 19 13 . 8-10. Thompson-Klein et al 2000 pp. and that this approach undermines the possibility of acquiring knowledge on the whole. 47. However. according to Moran. Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2006 p. Hence. independently of the interpretation made. with this specialisation having led to scientific knowledge becoming detached from the life-world. Schmidt 2008 p. a major difference lies in whether we aim to integrate the research process and jointly develop synthesised knowledge or whether our goal is to synthesise research results.21 We look further into this notion below. a joint driving force behind the call for cross-disciplinarity concerns complexity.
these boundaries form the disciplinary structure. 77. 9-10. our language and logic imply that we do classify and thus establish borders (boundaries). In 1996 Nicolescu published ‘A Manifesto for Transdisciplinarity’ which fundamentally involves a critique of modern science and its reductionism. 2004 p. which thus creates disciplines. and cross-disciplinarity ought not to be reduced to an approach that is adequate when it comes to societal problems.22 Nevertheless. which can also be essentially complex. As Thompson-Klein argues. Thompson-Klein describes Nicolescu’s work as a broadAndreasen & Brown eds. issues (or problems) in society ought not to be understood as more complex than disciplinary problems. beginning with the ideas (or philosophy) formulated by Nicolescu. the conceived fragmentation in science is not unique to science. Schmidt 2008 pp. but the boundaries are different between the two. Thompson-Klein attributes these two currents to the French philosopher Nicolescu and his followers and to a problem solving approach. 515-518.disciplinarity is considered able to manage complexity.23 We thus have a specialisation both in public life and in science. which can be illustrated through the two currents calling for cross-disciplinarity. In academia and in research. It is well established that cross-disciplinary approaches involve a criticism of modern society. 13. which involves an implicit thought that disciplinary problems are less complex. 56-57. 24 Thompson-Klein 2004a pp. Cross-disciplinarity must instead be adequate when it comes to dealing with problems (of all kinds) that are beyond the scope of a single discipline. As Thompson-Klein has emphasised. However. 26. See also Max-Neef 2005 pp. all activities emanate from a perspective and all activities set up borders – boundaries – for what to include and exclude. but one should not unreservedly call for crossdisciplinary research as a better way of dealing with societal problems (or problems in the life-world). in society the different sectors. 47. but this is expressed in at least two different ways. Thompson-Klein 1996 p. There are tendencies to talk about complexity when it comes to issues in society. societal problems are evident in literature on cross-disciplinarity.24 We acknowledge both these. Pohl 2008 p. 23 22 14 . Thompson-Klein 1990 p.
e.26 It is described as a ‘science and art of discovering bridges between different areas of knowledge and different beings’. The problem solving approach has a practical focus. the notion of scientific knowledge as part of how the world is perceived. between Object and Subject.29 As such. 29 Montuori 2008 p.28 and the researcher as an active. Essential in social science literature on contextualised knowledge is the path-breaking idea of a constructionist approach. and it encompasses ethics. 28 Thompson-Klein 2004a p. ethical participant in the world. The idea of a contextualised scientific knowledge includes a major epistemological shift. spirituality and creativity. 516.27 The vision of transdisciplinarity is described as transcultural and transnational. 27 Thompson-Klein 2004a p. The above described notion of transdisciplinarity can be contrasted to the problem solving approach. it has connections to a more general development concerning the epistemology of science. However. 3. In the approach symbolised by Nicolescu.e. but it also includes a criticism of modern science. the explicit connection between these two fields of research is seldom elaborated. ix. in Nicolescu’s conception. Essential in transdisciplinary research is the notion of scientific knowledge as contextualised.25 Transdisciplinary research. stresses the importance of language in our perceptions of the world and includes a criticism of the conventional view of scientific knowledge as a superior form of knowledge. which is grounded in an idea of solving societal problems. ought not to be understood as a new discipline or superdiscipline. it is a complementary form of research focusing on the correspondence between the external and internal world. science ought to be transformed from its foundation into ‘a new scientific and cultural 25 26 See description in Thompson-Klein 2004a p. 15 . The two approaches to cross-disciplinarity have different aims. Nicolescu 2008 p. For instance. i.based scientific and cultural approach facilitating a dialogue between specialists. 516. 516. We have already touched upon this approach and acknowledge that it has had a major influence. i. it breaks with the idea of universal knowledge. 11.
the internal drivers within the scientific community for transforming the approaches in the education-innovation system can be considered pivotal.30 This approach can be described by stressing the idea of contextualised knowledge. as well as in relation to transdisciplinarity. problem solving includes various approaches and is a core feature in cross-disciplinary research in general.g. a new epistemology is needed. 32 See e. 33 Balsiger 2004 p. and that their starting point is taken from the societal perspective which leads to them neglecting the fundamental epistemological core of the whole debate on the changing relationship between science and society. which has had a major impact on the view of the various concepts labelling cross-disciplinary approaches. which for instance could cope with the world’s complexity.31 Recalling the Jantsch article from 1972. 31 30 16 . problem solving ought not to be reduced to this pragmatic orientation. which could be contrasted to the use of a concept like “practitioners”. 408. but it is not the only aim. In this.g. Instead. 34 Nicolescu argue for instance that problem-solving is one of the aims in transdisciplinary research.32 Balsiger argues that the proponents of the problem solving approach have a tendency to be driven by a pragmatic concern. 121.. see Nicolescu 2008 p. so that the researchers come to focus on the problems identified by actors in society.approach’. but does not call for a fundamental transformation of science in general. 15. See e.33 Nevertheless. Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2006 p. Notice that the concept ‘stakeholder’ includes a connotation of “owing a problem”. the need for this transformation is at stake when it comes to pressing problems in society. 12. Thompson-Klein 2004c p.34 Hence. the latter opens up for a wider group of interests. as such it could come very close to the conception of Nicolescu. but could also involve the multiple levels of reality. The problem solving approach also emphasises the need for contextualised knowledge. Cross-disciplinary research has become something called for by non-academia and problem solving is mostly considered an external demand on the scientific community. but could also be driven by internal (scientific) reasons. The contextualisation is mainly expressed through the call for involving stakeholders in knowledge production.
as Schmidt emphasises. However. but regarded as also being connected to a critical stance towards modern science. 55 17 . We must also examine whether a transformation has recently occurred or is at hand. which is considered adequate for addressing both theoretical and/or practical problems. with the focus on the three main concepts used to delineate various forms of cross-disciplinary approaches (multidisciplinarity. Concepts. orientated approach emanating from external actors. the two streams could merge into each other. 2. there is room for substantial criticism of modern science in this approach too and. On the other hand we have a problem-solving approach. the integrative approach and the main motive behind the research.35 Despite differences – either in exact definition or in the concept used for describing a certain phenomena – there is common ground for describing and categorising various approaches to cross-disciplinarity. The problem-solving approach ought not to be reduced to a pragmatic.2 Core concepts for describing cross-disciplinary approaches In the literature on cross-disciplinarity it is evident that there are inconsistencies in the terminology used and that various authors define the same concept differently. Before turning to the three concepts. however. depending on the case. With this in mind we turn to core concepts used for classifying different forms of cross-disciplinary approaches. 35 Schmidt 2008 p. and the phenomena to which they refer. On one hand we have an underlying criticism of modern science and the notion that cross-disciplinarity could lead to a transformation of science. The aim in this section is to clarify this unity. we consider two distinguished and important systems for classifying the specific terms for crossdisciplinary research.Summarising this description of the history of cross-disciplinary approaches it is important to acknowledge the dual process behind the growth of these approaches. Hence. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity). are not static. the concepts are not used arbitrarily.
the main feature used for outlining various approaches was the integrative approach between the disciplines involved. but it is not the only approach for outlining various approaches to cross-disciplinarity. 18 . as well as to how that integration should be done. concepts). 2008 p. Integration is of major importance when dealing with crossdisciplinarity. Below. nor is it unproblematic. 16-17. Jantsch 1972. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity – involves a higher degree of integration.In the literature on cross-disciplinarity from the 1970s and 1980s. passim. there is a tendency to give integration a value of its own and not consider it simply as a methodology. 39 Pohl et al. However. 2008. and by whom. Hirch Hadorn et al.g. Jantsch hierarchical classification system for classifying various approaches to education and innovation. This is evident not least in e. we first deal with the problems of having the integrative approach as a key aspect in distinguishing various concept of cross-disciplinarity and then describe other (complementary) approaches. Schmidt 2008. See also Pohl et al. where each concept – multidisciplinarity. 38 Bruun 2000 p.39 Having integration as the essence for outlining different approaches to cross-disciplinarity leads to a hierarchical system. Balsiger 2004.37 Having the integrative approach as the crucial point for defining various approaches to cross-disciplinarity is fundamental. a system that has had a major influence in literature on cross-disciplinary research. However. Robinson 2008. It refers to what it is that ought to be integrated (theory.36 The core aspects lie in the degree of coordination/integration of the approaches and the system stretches from multidisciplinarity as a form of cooperation without integration. 2006.38 Integration is thus essential in all cross-disciplinary approaches and raises substantial methodological questions. 412.g. valuing one form more than the other without recognising the aim of the research is proble- 36 37 See e. methods. to transdisciplinarity as the ultimate degree of cooperation described as transcending the disciplinary backgrounds. which makes them more ultimate.
while just acknowledging it as a sub-part in interdisciplinarity. e.41 This distinction copes with the driving forces behind the cross-disciplinary approach as well as the goal for performing cross-disciplinary research. 10-11. 40 19 . the cross-disciplinary activity is considered a means to achieve certain goals. This challenge does not include a resistance to using the degree of integration as important for distinguishing between different concepts. 42 Thompson-Klein 1996 pp. we can use Thompson-Klein’s distinction between critical and instrumental approaches to interdisciplinarity. Salter & Hearn 1996 pp.42 In the other approach – critical interdisciplinarity – epistemological issues are in the foreground. 44 Thompson-Klein 2000 p. In instrumental interdisciplinarity (interdisciplinarity is used here as an overall concept for crossing boundaries between disciplines). The motive could be considered a technological interest and the guiding metaphor is bridge building. In order to describe this challenge. see Sandström et al.g. 10-11. 10-11. 43 Thompson-Klein 1996 pp. Furthermore.matic.43 This latter approach is also labelled ‘conceptual interdisciplinarity’ and/or ‘reflexive interdisciplinarity’. the hierarchical approach has led to difficulties in distinguishing between interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.40 The use of a hierarchical typology has historically dominated literature on cross-disciplinarity. 41 See Thompson-Klein 1996 p.e. but is today challenged. i. but emphasises that integration needs to be complemented with other aspects as well. the cross-disciplinary approach is intended to lead to something particular. 5. 5. The metaphor used by Thompson-Klein is restructuring and she underlines that this approach involves a reinterpretation of the prevailing discourse and involves critical reflections. 16-17. solving a problem or leading to something innovative. Thompson-Klein 2000 p.44 Notice that both approaches – instrumental and critical – to some extent have an instrumental goal. but depending on what the goal is – solving a problem or changing the knowledge production – different issues are more or less This has e. 2005 p. Thompson-Klein points out that this approach dominates the contemporary discourse on cross-disciplinarity. 8-9.g. led to some authors not distinguishing transdisciplinarity as a concept of its own.
47 Salter & Hearn 1996 pp. and to steer the research to what “stakeholders” perceive as their main issues to be solved. but this must be complemented by other approaches that e. 45 20 . disciplines are genuinely multifaceted and I have opted to use the concept ‘discipline’ in line with the subjects that exist in academia. it should be borne in mind that all discussions on cross-disciplinarity take their starting point in the notion of what a discipline is.g.e. i. critical and instrumental interdisciplinarity. the simplification makes it easier to talk about crossing disciplinary boundaries. 38-41. This means that some disciplines. see Salter and Hearn 1996 p. e. acknowledge the driving forces behind research. for instance Human Ecology or Gender Studies.47 The question is thus how ‘discipline’ ought to be understood in this report.1). concerning the actors that ought to be involved in knowledge production (only researchers or researchers and other actors). See also Thompson-Klein 1996 pp. critical interdisciplinarity is considered to be more diverse and could have various goals and purposes: it could be aimed at changing the disciplinary structure or overcoming the disciplinary structure. 17-25. science does not have a superior role in producing knowledge of the world. Furthermore.45 However.46 Overall.acknowledged. 31. As Salter and Hearn argue. illustrate the ideas from Nicolescu as well as the problem-solving approach mentioned above (section 2.e. have much more similariThere are possible differences between the reasons behind this: in instrumental interdisciplinarity “stakeholders” and others should be included in the knowledge production as a means to bridge the research process and implementation phase. 46 Salter and Hearn elaborate on this and use the concepts critical interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity for differentiating these two approaches/goals.g. i. In my opinion. distinguishing between various concepts of cross-disciplinarity integration is of major importance. Notice that the two concepts used for this. in both approaches the relationship between science and society could also be reinterpreted. there is a strong tendency to simplify the conception of what a discipline is when discussing cross-disciplinary approaches. In critical interdisciplinarity the motive to include the public in the research process is epistemological. Besides considering the two complementary approaches for distinguishing between various approaches towards cross-disciplinarity.
independently of whether it is of a disciplinary or cross-disciplinary nature. for instance. This approach has been described as ‘a side by side of disciplines’. Balsiger 2004. 48 21 .49 Transdisciplinarity. see e. there is definitely a common view that one form of cross-disciplinary activity is characterised as a number of disciplines investigating a specific problem from their respective perspectives. 410-411. 2. which has effects on understanding interdisciplinarity. As a concept. where the different disciplines analyse the same subject matter but they do so Some authors argue that there is a tendency for these questions to be neglected in cross-disciplinary research. What is fundamental is the need for dealing with the philosophical. Multidisciplinarity is a rather unproblematic concept and only merits a short description. Salter & Hearn 1996. interdisciplinarity can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s.50 Transdisciplinarity is thus a concept in formation. emerged in the early 1970s but explicit discussions occurred first during the last decades of the 20th century. Accordingly. The investigation is made using each discipline’s ordinary methods and each of them gives adequate knowledge of the problem under study.g. a major goal is to acknowledge this transformation and describe how we ought to consider these two concepts in contemporary discourse. Moran 2002. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. on the other hand. The major challenge lies in describing interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity and particularly the difference between these two. multidisciplinarity.g.ties as regards the challenges expressed in relation to cross-disciplinarity than. epistemological and methodological approaches in all kinds of research. Economics or Chemistry.2.1 Multidisciplinarity On a general level. 49 See e. 50 Balsiger 2004 pp.48 We now turn to the three most frequently used concepts for denominating different cross-disciplinary approaches. Schmidt 2008. introduction.
2008 p. This point is worth acknowledging. A notion in general discussions of cross-disciplinary approaches is that cross-disciplinarity emanates from a problem-solving approach (see section 2. Depending on who is involved in this process.independently of each other.2 Interdisciplinarity Using the hierarchical approach to distinguish between different approaches of cross-disciplinarity gives interdisciplinarity a higher Baumgärtner et al. but must be further developed depending on the approach of synthesising research.3. 51 22 . It should instead be considered thematically orientated. multidisciplinarity preserves the idea of disciplinary autonomy. working from their respective discipline (for instance its methodological approach).’53 Consequently. multidisciplinarity has no intention of problem solving. 52 Russel et al. Notice that the authors use a three-partial categorisation of interdisciplinary approaches and the first one is called “side by side”.51 Multidisciplinarity is mainly understood as a form of cooperation which preserves the boundaries between disciplines: in multidisciplinarity ‘disciplinary specialists work together maintaining their disciplinary approaches and perspectives’52. Hence. the authors note that this approach is sometimes labelled multidisciplinarity. Hence. various degrees of cooperation are necessary. 412.2. and ‘the implication [of multidisciplinarity] is a division of labour in which different disciplinary frames survey separate aspects of the same whole. 2008 p. 460. 444. We will come back to this in section 3. 53 Horlick-Jones & Sime 2004 p. 386. a multidisciplinary approach means that a certain phenomenon is investigated and that this investigation is made by several researchers from different disciplines. 2. it is crucial to reflect upon how synthesis can (and should) be made. but the cooperation is not fundamental and problem-solving is not necessarily the goal.54 This means that the contribution to a given theme is produced from disciplinary perspectives and collaboration is not necessary.2. 54 Balsiger 2004 p. but as Balsiger stresses.1).
and Thompson-Klein (2000) use instrumental versus critical interdisciplinarity.57 However. 58 Russel et al 2008 p. Robinson (2008) separates discipline-based interdisciplinarity from issue-driven interdisciplinarity. 460.55 However. Balsiger described multidisciplinarity as orientated toward a theme Note. however.58 and interdisciplinarity could be understood as constructing ‘a common model for the disciplines involved’. 56 See e. Lengwiler (2006) analyses interdisciplinarity in compromising multidisciplinarity. 2004 p.degree of integration than multidisciplinarity.g. Neither of these has received any substantial influence in the literature on cross-disciplinarity and I thus omitted them from this description of core concepts. Russel et al. which are pluraldisciplinary and cross-disciplinary. since interdisciplinarity is also used for labelling a general approach to crossing disciplines. 433. 59 Ramadier 2004 p. and instead he claimed that interdisciplinarity has this goal. 55 23 .60 Balsiger argued that multidisciplinarity should not be characterised as problem-solving. they include a notion that cooperation exists between researchers from various disciplines involved in the process and that they develop a shared problem formulation.59 Interdisciplinary research thus demands a shared problem formulation and. that in the classical Jantsch publication from 1972 there are two concepts between multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. while Max-Neef (2005) is approaching that it concerns coordination and the difference from other concepts lies in the levels that are included.1050. at least to some extent. a common methodological framework for the investigation of the different themes or aspects of the research problem. Buanes & Jentoft (2009) who use the metaphor of ’building bridges’ and analyse the institutional settings from this approach. authors are either not defining the concept used56 or are defining ‘interdisciplinarity’ with given sub-categories in order to be more precise. taken together these we can acknowledge some similarities. emphasise for instance that interdisciplinarity is devoted to research in which scholars from two or more disciplines are working together in areas that overlap or in areas that intersect between disciplines. 60 Wickson et al. 57 Schmidt (2008) distinguishes between strong and weak interdisciplinarity. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.
The first is characterised as ‘side by side’.. but since solving the problem investigated is not the goal. methods and theories. we have two different forms of collaboration depending on those who are cooperating. Strong interdisciplinarity is motivated internally to sciences and ‘is based on the wish to integrate patchworks of disciplinary knowledge’.that is investigated from different disciplinary approaches. who uses the concepts of strong versus weak interdisciplinarity. and the third as a ‘fully integrated’ approach. The coordination and cooperation pertain to the input and output of data and results and do not cover the 61 62 Balsiger 2004 p. 412. The second approach is characterised by each discipline addressing the same subject matter but the investigation is conducted so that the researchers stay in their own disciplinary set of concepts. This distinction overlaps with the distinction of the kind of problem that is at stake. be of two kinds: interdisciplinary (if the solution that is sought is purely of scientific matter). according to Balsiger. the solution is the goal and collaboration is thus a necessity. 71-72. Exchange is conducted with clearly defined data or the results are used as input in a subsequent integrative analysis (the authors exemplify this with multi-criteria decision analysis). the second as ‘division of labour between disciplines’. 412. however. i. In interdisciplinarity.e. 58. This is for instance evident in Robinson’s distinction between ‘discipline-based interdisciplinarity’ and ‘issue-driven interdisciplinarity’. while practitioners need to be included when societal problems are investigated. that cooperation between scientists is considered appropriate when it comes to scientific queries.65 A slightly different approach is taken by Baumgärtner et al. 63 Robinson 2008 pp.63 A similar approach is taken by Schmidt.61 This collaboration could. who make a distinction between three sub-categories of interdisciplinarity. 65 Schmidt 2008 pp. collaboration is not a necessity.62 Accordingly. or between disciplines as well as between scientists and individuals. Balsiger 2004 p.64 while weak interdisciplinarity is orientated towards solving pressing societal problems. 64 Schmidt 2008 p. 57-58. 24 .
70 Wickson et al. 386. is characterised by the concepts. The second form – a division of labour between disciplines – would in some contexts be characterised as multidisciplinarity due to the researchers only cooperating on the results (the research process having been conducted in their respective disciplinary structure).70 Wickson et al. 69 Ramadier 2004 p.69 Crucial in transdisciplinary research seems to be the development of a common language and the novel or unique methodologies needed. 67 66 25 .2. do. due to its emphasis on ‘transcending’ the disciplinary boundaries. show the wide range that could be included in an interdisciplinary approach. 461. Baumgärtner et al. 1050. Thompson-Klein 2004a. Focusing on the degree of integration for defining the concept ‘transdisciplinarity’. Schmidt 2008.internal elements and structure of the disciplinary analysis. which is described as a fully integrated approach. 386. however. 2008 p. 2008 p. compare interdisciplinarity with transdisciplinarity and emphasise that interBaumgärtner et al. The latter two concepts. 2006 p. Before turning to a clarification of these approaches and setting up a conceptual framework for cross-disciplinary approaches in general. The third form has a character more in line with interdisciplinarity or even transdisciplinarity. 68 Russel et al 2008 p.68 and ‘transdisciplinarity extends beyond disciplinary thinking’. 2.67 The first form – side by side – should be referred to as multidisciplinarity. 424. which Baumgärtner et al.66 The third form. methods and theories of the disciplines involved being closely related and adjusted to each other with regard to the joint interdisciplinary scientific aims and subject matter.3 Transdisciplinarity In Jantsch terminology transdisciplinarity is the highest form of crossdisciplinary approach. it is described as a ‘practice that transgresses and transcends disciplinary boundaries’. This cooperation ‘requires from all scientists the ability to transcend the boundaries of their own discipline’. Ramadier 2004. we need to focus on the concept of transdisciplinarity and observe the transformation that is at hand. See also Balsiger 2004.
73 Nicolescu 2008 pp. 10-13. the major difference consists of whether there are methodologies or epistemologies that need to be developed. see e. however. 26 . he stresses that each cross-disciplinary approach has its own value. ideally. Note also the contrary.disciplinary research involves a development of the common framework within distinct epistemological approaches that are used. 71 72 Wickson et al.72 As Nicolescu argues.’71 Hence.g. 2004 p. Sandström et al. we find a slightly different way of using the concept of transdisciplinarity and can in this context discern a more consistent definition of it and a clearer distinction between the concepts of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.73 There are thus several reasons for playing down the term transdisciplinarity. In some reports/articles it is also argued that transdisciplinarity has a minor role and that the focus hence lies on multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. 74 That interdisciplinarity is used substantially more than transdisciplinarity is evident when using these concepts in searching for literature. i. crossdisciplinary research ought to be valued depending on the problem at stake and be considered a complement to disciplinary research and not an ultimate form of research. that the reverse hierarchical approach that sets disciplinary research highest is just as devastating. which depends on the problem in focus. Instead. epistemologies. since methodologies cannot be totally separated from epistemologies.e. It is worth reflecting that cross-disciplinary research is sometimes (or even often) less valued in academic circles than disciplinary research.1050. Balsiger also argues that the hierarchical (and evolutionary) approach for classifying concepts of cross-disciplinarity is problematic due to the transdisciplinary approach being considered to be the ultimate form. a point often made in literature on cross-disciplinary approaches. drawing upon the literature about contemporary knowledge production. Moreover. since it is difficult to set up clear boundaries between the two forms and the distinction easily becomes blurred. 2005. while the transdisciplinary approach requires a ‘development of methodology that involves an interpenetration or integration of different methodologies and. Balsiger 2004 p. 409. using the degree of integration can also be criticised for pragmatic reasons. Using this as the crucial distinction is doubtful.74 However.
76 75 27 . 1994 pp. the argument that transdisciplinarity does not necessarily depend on disciplinary knowledge. as we have already acknowledged. the communication extends the conventional institutional channels and is orientated to those who have participated in the research.80 Gibbons et al. Gibbons et al. it is dynamic and the process cannot be predicted as in discipline-based research. disciplinary researchers and external actors with interests in the research). besides a problemsolving approach and context of application.76 Even though some of these features are criticised. 1994 p. and finally. reflective processes that are responsive to the particular questions. methods and modes of practice (which do not necessarily depend on disciplinary knowledge). argue. is a core characteristic. which include problem focus (research originates from and is contextualised in ‘real-world’ problems).78 As Russel et al. in comparison to multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. 80 Russel et al 2008 p. 2008 highlight that transdisciplinarity involves both researchers from different disciplines and non-academic actors and that without this. transdisciplinarity. 386).In contemporary knowledge production transdisciplinarity. 5.. Balsiger 2004 p.79 This potential springs from the characteristic features of transdisciplinarity. 77 See e. 413. e. research is not transdisciplinary (p. 79 Russel et al. 461 (citing Wickson et al.g.77 one can discern a common approach that clearly distinguishes transdisciplinarity from interdisciplinarity if one emphasises that the research is done in cooperation between researchers (from different disciplinary backgrounds) and between researchers and practitioners. has the ‘most potential to respond to new demands and imperatives’. and research groupings) and collaboration (including collaboration between transdisciplinary researchers. 3-4.75 In the use of the term by Gibbons et al. settings. 78 Hollaender et al. 2006). 2008 p.g. evolving methodology (the research involves iterative. 461. it develops its own distinct theoretical structures. transdisciplinarity has four distinct features: it develops a framework to guide problem-solving efforts.
from military activities. they claim that there has been an increased interest recently in transdisciplinarity and cross-disciplinary approaches in general and this initially came from practitioners and theorists within a variety of disciplines in academia and was later taken up by government. p.g. as well as external drivers. Using all these three approaches we can discern a difference between interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity that particularly emphasises the difference in who is involved in the knowledge production. It is thus appropriate to recall the discussion above about the different approaches for making classifications. Russel et al. We had integration as one (dominant) aspect. 461. 81 28 . and ‘when it is brought to science in an institutional way’.Hence. Balsiger emphasises that transdisciplinarity is also at stake when researchers themselves have identified a socially relevant problem and need to inform the public.82 Defining transdisciplinarity like this. However. a more instrumental or critical/conceptual approach.e. who argues that transdisciplinarity comes to the fore when the problem investigated is generated in ‘an extra scientific field’. ‘a solution to the problem is urgently required’. which correlates to the thesis of ‘context in application’ in contemporary knowledge production. industry and non-government sector. i. the ‘public opinion considers these fields relevant’. 2008. transdisciplinarity is understood as having much potential for collaborative and responsive problem solving and promises to bring ‘universities into line with the new knowledge landscape and in meeting global challenges of the 21st century’. Nevertheless. 413. argue that transdisciplinarity is not a new practice and that there have been a number of internal drivers for transdisciplinarity earlier. 82 Balsiger 2004 p.81 A similar understanding is held by Balsiger. but also includes a difference in the driving forces. Notice that Russel et al. but where we also need to acknowledge the driving forces behind cross-disciplinarity as well as the actors involved in knowledge production. one can observe that the main feature besides collaboration is that someone is asking for the research. e.
To some extent.e. Multidisciplinarity Which is the main motive? (instrumental vs. I set up five questions that can be used for categorising the essence of each concept. but not necessary. Interdisciplinarity Transdisciplinarity practitioners research process? Are methodologically challenging issues addressed? Are epistemologically challenging issues addressed? To a minor degree. Notify that there are blurred boundaries and that the features are not unique for any specific crossdisciplinary approach or cross-disciplinary approach in general (they are thus to a certain degree applicable for disciplinary research as well). Yes. In order to summarise and outline the main differences between the three concepts. critical) Is there any cooperation between disciplines? Is there (active) cooperation between researchers during and the No. to a certain degree. i. while the definitions need to be complemented with the driving forces behind the research as well as with the notion of the relationship between science and society. 29 .3 An analytical framework for cross-disciplinary approaches Summarising the standpoints from the above sections. Both instrumental and critical Yes.2. Mainly instrumental To some extent. Yes. the search for boundaries is important for clarifying the discussion on cross-disciplinary research and for reducing misunderstanding. to a certain degree. The approach emerges from the view that integration alone is not sufficient for defining the concepts multidisciplinarity. Both instrumental and critical Yes. we can outline general conceptions of the three most influential concepts of crossdisciplinarity. No. Yes. To some extent. However. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Yes. to a certain degree. those who seem to be relevant actors within the knowledge production process.
In the literature. 30 . while they are pivotal with a critical or conceptual approach. Integration. In interdisciplinary research. Cooperation between researchers and practitioners could be the case in interdisciplinarity. This is the foundation for suggesting that interdisciplinarity should be reserved to categorise an approach focusing on cooperation between disciplines. and the approach could be motivated by both instrumental and critical/conceptual reasons. but their involvement does not seem to be of major importance in multidisciplinary research.g. which in multidisciplinarity is not necessarily a main goal. From an analytical standpoint there is nothing preventing involvement from practitioners in the research process. which presupposes the addressing of methodological and epistemological issues.g. epistemological and methodological challenges appear to be less treated. it is evident that this kind of cooperation is an indispensable feature of transdisciplinarity. with its epistemological and methodological challenges. strong and weak interdisciplinarity or between discipline-based and issue-driven interdisciplinarity). cooperation between disciplines is a focal point and cooperation should be conducted during the research process. that each investigation only uses quantitative methods). is particularly addressed in the synthesis phase. discipline-based interdisciplinarity or strong interdisciplinarity.e. i. but particularly in relation to distinctions made between two different forms of interdisciplinarity (e. The synthesis also particularly examines the results from each investigation and the synthesising work could be made less challenging through setting up in advance a framework for how studies ought to be made (e.Using these questions as an analytical framework. multidisciplinarity can best be described as cooperation between various disciplines but the investigation is made using each discipline’s ordinary concepts and methods. and that we let transdisciplinarity categorise a crossdisciplinary approach including both cooperation between different disciplines and between researchers and practitioners. The extent to which this is done seems to be related to the driving force behind the research. Raising methodological and epistemological issues is also essential for transdisciplinarity. if research is conducted with instrumental motives.
both between disciplines and between researchers and practitioners. we must probe deeper into the literature. The aim is to obtain a deeper understanding of how to interpret the notion of transdisciplinarity. However. Will this interpretation survive a deeper penetration of transdisciplinarity? Could we distinguish a more precise standpoint regarding the motive behind transdisciplinarity? How should we interpret the challenges concerning methodology and epistemology? In order to acquire a better understanding of transdisciplinarity. as in disciplinary research.Essential in this framework is the notion of cooperation and there are reasons for distinguishing transdisciplinarity from the other two approaches emphasising cooperation. In these research practices. 31 . not as an active knowledge producer. but their role would never be of a prominent character in the knowledge production process. I suggest that we use this feature as the defining element. Searching for a unique distinction. their role is more likely to be of a responsive or discussional nature. it is important to note that practitioners could also be included in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research. which can then act as the foundation for analysing research practice. particularly that dealing with transdisciplinary research.
In both Mode 2 knowledge production and Triple Helix. a hierarchical structure could be discerned moving from the multidisciplinary approach to the interdisciplinary approach and finally ending up in the transdisciplinary approach. 83 32 . see e. Vinnova.85 How should we interpret this problem and solution orientation? How should we interpret the role practitioners are perceived to have in transdisciplinary research? How are we going to meet the methodological and epistemological challenges in transdisciplinary research? We address these issues below. Forskningsstrategi.84 which describes contemporary knowledge production as a problem. in transdisciplinary research practitioners have an active role in the research process. Horlich-Jones & Sime 2004 pp. bringing us to one of the core issues in theories of contemporary knowledge production. Pohl 2008 p.g. transdisciplinarity is also one of the pivotal characteristics in Mode 2 knowledge production. Relying upon the integrative element.and solution-orientated approach that includes participatory approaches for addressing societal problems. Besides cooperation. This approach includes a new relationship between science and society. SSF. Strategisk plan. which are the two theories mostly discussed. The main difference between these two approaches thus lies in the role held by non-academic actors. We begin by highlighting the driving forces – motives – behind the call for These two theories are also those that have had an influence in research funding agency concepts.3. passim. However. 1994 p. Transdisciplinary research In Section 2 we outlined the main differences between the three approaches to cross-disciplinarity. 442-443. 5. 47.83 cooperation between researchers and practitioners is an essential feature. Hellström & Jacob 2005. Transdisciplinarity is a heterogeneous field but the ambition is to find whether there is a pattern in how to understand transdisciplinarity or whether we can distinguish different approaches included in transdisciplinary research. 71. 85 Robinson 2008 p. and Verksamhetsstrategi. See also Benner & Persson 2002. 84 Gibbons et al. recent conceptual change has emphasised the form of collaboration as a defining feature in distinguishing transdisciplinarity from interdisciplinarity. Mistra.
87 We examine these three drivers. even though in reality they are intertwined (with more or less focus on different parts). 87 86 33 . while I prefer “population”.86 Considering transdisciplinarity as a collaborative research aimed at solving pressing societal problem is a core feature in contemporary knowledge production theories. there are at least two major approaches to the call for cross-disciplinary approaches. which is considered a practice involving actors both within academia and outside. particularly its tendency to specialisation. but depending on context the practice of transdisciplinarity differs. 461. ‘environmental imperative’ and ‘engaged population’. Pohl 2008 p. Although these could be much further explored.1 Drivers for transdisciplinarity In the history of cross-disciplinarity. The three drivers are ‘knowledge economy’. whether labelled Mode 2. there is talk about a shifting context for knowledge production. Russel et al 2008 p. there are (mainly) three major drivers behind this shifting context. which could give a better foundation for interpreting the meaning of transdisciplinarity. As Russel et al.transdisciplinarity. 47. which leads to a separation from life-world. Transdisciplinarity is a feature in all of these. In these theories. use the term “populace”. Russel et al. Post-normal Science or Triple Helix. has argue Pohl played down systematic studies on methodological and theoretical aspects as well as investigating the practice of transdisciplinarity. 3. On one hand there is the criticism of modern science. We treat them separately. but the pragmatic orientation. which dominates contemporary knowledge production. argue. and on the other hand a pragmatic approach aiming at solving pressing societal problems. The two streams overlap. and turn thereafter to the characteristic features and investigate these. a brief review is sufficient to show how the drivers together shape the call for transdisciplinary approaches and the implications of each driver. We also look briefly at the main issues within each driver.
3. relevant and communicable to stakeholders outside the university and generated through collaborative partnerships. Russel et al 2008. 461-462. See also Slaugther & Leslie 1997.90 One expression of this change is the increasing focus on the ‘third role’ of universities. Delanty 2001.1 Knowledge economy As Russel et al. Central to this concept of ‘knowledge economy’ is the reconceptualisation of knowledge as a tradable commodity.88 As various authors from different perspectives have argued. particularly between university and industry. 91 Russel et al.1.91 A further characteristic of the economic driver is the call for ‘partnership’. Competitiveness is today a core motive for funding. ‘knowledge economy’ is a feature of global capitalism and knowledge and innovation are considered increasingly essential to economic growth and international competitiveness. As Russel et al.89 and it has also resulted in a shifting approach to university funding. Universities must market themselves in a competitive environment which pushes for a focus on building strong research environments. Delanty 2001. This trend is described as a triple helix of university. For similar analyses. 89 88 34 . which today is mainly understood to be researchers applying their knowledge and contributing to economic growth. Ziman 2000. 462. 92 See Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff 1997.92 Such partnership aims at ‘transferring’ knowledge and innovation from the universities to the industrial sector.g. this focus challenges the perceptions of the university’s role in contemporary society. industry and government relations. 461. 90 Russel et al. see also Sandström & Harding 2002. At the same time. Slaughter & Leslie 1997. 2008 p. Jacob & Hellström 2000. See e. claim. 2008 pp. A key feature of the transdisciplinarity that Russel et al 2008 p. governments tend to take an interventionist approach in steering the university research by identifying and funding priority areas. claim: This reconceptualisation has been a driver for transdisciplinarity in increasing demand for knowledge that is problem-focused.
as well as cross-disciplinary approaches. which emphasises collaboration between various actors and has a problem focus. Delanty 2001. there are also strong reasons for emphasising a close relationship between transdisciplinarity and sustainable development research. 2008 p. geography etc. Ziman 2000. 463.1. 95 Russel et al. hydrology. geology.93 The idea of knowledge economy as influencing and reshaping the university structure is well-established and there is a flourishing literature exploring this. Russel et al. an area that has growth forth both in research and politics since the 1960s. However.g.responds to this driver is that problems are defined by knowledge consumers and partners. 518-519. Similarities are for instance the multifaceted and problem-based focus. 3. The characteristic features of ‘sustainable development research’ (or its familiar concepts sustainability research or sustainability science) correspond to the features of transdisciplinarity. even claim that the need for interconnection between different spheres of knowledge rises to prominence alongside the growth of the sustainable development concept (and vision). has become more established and is considered essential in relation to the vision of sustainable development. environmental research focused on biology.94 We do not dig deeper into this argument. Jacob & Hellström 2000. The call for partnership also enhances the call for transdisciplinary research. Slaugther & Leslie 1997.95 Cross-disciplinary approaches were evident in 1970s environmental research and one can recall the influence system analysis has had on many branches of knowledge. In the beginning. but acknowledge that this change is occurring and that knowledge production at universities is affected by it. 2008 p. the participatory Russel et al. 94 93 35 . 463.96 However. for instance UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme initiated in 1970. the action interest. 96 Thompson-Klein 2004a pp.2 Environmental imperative This driver takes its starting-point in the increased concern for environment. social scientific research. See e.
Robinson 2008 p.101 See e.3 Engaged population The changing societal context of knowledge production is driven not only by economic reasons. which involves an engagement of the public not necessarily seen before. an engaged population creates new demands for knowledge as well as providing new opportunities for collaboration in knowledge production. translatable into different languages and context. this has given rise to the concept of ‘mutual learning’ and an approach emphasising a consultative. Baumgärtner et al. deliberative and participatory knowledge production. there are increasing demands for public participation both from a bottom-up and top-down perspective. 385.g. they argue that science has become democratised. 101 Russel et al 2008 pp. 2000. 100 Russel et al 2008 p. 464-465. and problem-focused’. relevant. 464. Even though the proponents of Mode 2 have a tendency to overemphasise this development. 72.97 3.98 there is a development that draws upon a changing relationship between researchers and the public.100 Accordingly.1. since as Russel et al.approaches and the need to address values and normative judgement on the common good. externally because the engaged population demands ‘knowledge that is responsive. passim. but also by a changing view of the public and their possible role in knowledge production. 2006 pp. 98 Nowotny et al. internally since research needs to reconsider the place for ordinary people in the knowledge production. Independently. argue.99 This trend – the engaged population – is influencing transdisciplinarity both internally and externally. 99 Russel et al 2008 p. Hirsch Hadorn et al. 122-123. 97 36 . 2008 p. 464. The background behind this lies in a higher level of education (at least in OECD-countries) and in a weakening authority of science and academia in society (which could be partly related to increased educational levels). we draw upon sociological or epistemological reasons for this development. These two features – a high level of education and a weakening authority – are central in the Mode 2 conception of contemporary knowledge production.
The environmental imperative. see Andreasen & Brown 2004. which could be contrasted to the other two concepts to cross-disciplinarity. in contrast. Due to the variety of features dependent on the author. They were expressed in a context focusing on outlining an all-embracing approach to transdisciplinarity. We do this through analysing the main features established in the literature on transdisciplinarity. these three drivers could be seen as lenses that focus on different aspects and give different perspectives for transdisciplinarity. 103 Russel et al 2008 p. Nevertheless. the well-established notion of the increasing complexity of society. prompts recognition and consideration of the problem in its context and promotes a systems approach to research. I have made a selection of those features which I consider As concluded by Schild and Sörlin. 104 Recall that complexity is a joint driver in the call for cross-disciplinarity in general.2.To summarise.1. As Russel et al. For discussion on complexity in relation to transdisciplinarity. Thompson-Klein 2004b. give a broad perspective for transdisciplinarity.103 Altogether Russel et al.3 (transdisciplinarity) a number of characteristic features of transdisciplinarity.104 3. complexity as a complementary key word describing the call for transdisciplinarity. 102 37 .102 A relevant question is what implication each of them has on the transdisciplinary approach. namely multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. In order to develop a better understanding of transdisciplinarity we must probe deeper into the meaning and content. argue the knowledge economy driver leads mainly to problem-orientated or applied research geared to the needs of the knowledge consumer. cross-disciplinary approaches in Swedish research are mainly motivated by ”research driven technology development”. while the engaged population calls for researchers to take a more consultative approach and recognize other sources of knowledge. they do address. at least to some extent.2 Characteristic features of transdisciplinarity We have already acknowledged in section 2. see Schild & Sörlin 2005 pp. see section 2. 465. while also highlighting significant contradictions and tensions that exist between the different drivers. which is a motive correlating to the driver of knowledge economy. 324-326.
the field has a dynamic character. 5. I consider that these two lists have many similarities and that the core concepts – problem focus/solving. Transdisciplinarity is problem focused or problem solving in its approach. but because the drivers are intertwined one could discern features covering the general conception of transdisciplinarity. Wickson et al. which includes a changing relationship between science and society.106 The concepts differ between these two.2.3. • a distinct theoretical structure and method. we begin by reflecting upon the difference between a driver and a feature. In Gibbons et al. collaboration and evolving methodology – can be used as 105 106 Gibbons et al. 38 . • communication with the public. It is those features on which I intend to focus. 2006 p. However. • evolving methodology. Instead I turn to another list of features presented by Wickson et al. but they raise similarities considering the content. In sum. and • collaboration.’s description of the Mode 2 concept that shape contemporary knowledge production. we first identify some different lists of features. and • dynamic. In this introduction. it involves collaboration with various actors – communication is important – and it needs a theoretical structure and methods of its own (methods that are under formation). I would say that the drivers shape the features. which are more fully described in section 2. transdisciplinarity is a main attribute and the features of transdisciplinarity are considered to be: • a problem-solving approach. and they outline the three following key features of transdisciplinarity: • problem focus. 1994 p. Their focus also lies on the changing context for research.fundamental in the literature. There is evidently a close relationship between drivers and features.105 I do not probe deeper into the content of these features. drivers that were prominent in the former section. 1048.
109 it must be something particular that is in mind when talking about it in relation to transdisciplinarity. because problem focus is a feature in all research and we need to acknowledge the specific meaning it is given in the context of transdisciplinarity. passim. Wickson et al. The search for this notion is the focal point in this section. we start with the problem solving/focus. 3. my ambition is to include experiences from research into the description of features and take the discussion further.a foundation for exploring the features of transdisciplinarity. for instance describe transdisciplinary research as it ‘is performed with the explicit intent to solve problems that are complex and multi-dimensional [and the] founding idea here is that society is facing problems manifest in the real world that are complex. theoretical approach. 2006 p. Exploring the features of transdisciplinary. This is particularly the case when it comes to methodological issues in relation to transdisciplinarity. 1994. 1048. 108 Wickson et al. See e. 107 39 . deal with the empirical investigation of transdisciplinarity or contemporary knowledge production.1 Problem focus In literature on transdisciplinary ‘problem focus’ or ‘problem solving’ is a feature frequently used.107 Wickson et al. multi-dimensional and not confined by the boundaries of a single disciplinary framework’. and take into account the methodologies chosen in transdisciplinary research projects.g. which encompasses both collaboration between researchers from different disciplines. to methodology in relation to transdisciplinarity. Hence.108 Considering that problem solving is a metaphor used for describing research practice in general. Before exploring these concepts we need to turn our attention to the fact that neither Gibbons et al. nor Wickson et al.2. Robinson 2008: Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008. Thereafter we turn to collaboration. and collaboration between researchers and practitioners. see Kuhn 1992/62. Finally we turn to the field of methodology and acknowledge both a general. Gibbons et al. 2006. 109 Which is most famous in the sense of Kuhn.
Wickson et al. Nevertheless. their goal is to address and to solve pressing problems of society’. an underlying notion is that transdisciplinarity differs in respect to the problem that is addressed.In literature on transdisciplinarity a common notion is held that transdisciplinary research is adequate when it comes to deal with complex (societal) problems. Schmidt for instance talks about a ‘realworld’ perspective. 112 Schmidt 2008 p. A shortcoming of this approach is its incorporation of a distinction between what could be considered internal scientific problems and external problems. Schmidt distinguishes between a strong and a weak position to interdisciplinarity where the strong position aims to integrate the ‘various patchworks of disciplinary knowledge’. distinguishing some problems as ‘life-world orientated’ is problematic and we can use Schmidt’s distinction between internal and external problems to show why. on the other hand. 1048. i. 111 Schmidt 2008 pp. 56-57.112 The first position – strong interdisciplinarity – is described as mainly motivated internally to sciences. 57. about ‘societal problems’. orientated towards a local context and is ‘developed from a ‘problem-orientated’ or ‘real-world’ perspective. 57.e. problems in society. The deficit with this is well described in literature on sociology of science and we only point out that this demarcation line correlates to the notion that science can inform society and bring adequate Schmidt 2008 p. 2006 p. Wickson et al. and Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn about ‘life-world problems’. the basic goal is to obtain synthesis and restore what is lost through the Weak differentiation and specialisation of disciplines. and Pohl & Hirch Hadorn 2008 s. where life-world problems could be used as a joint denomination. the second – weak interdisciplinarity – is motivated externally. 112. Using life-world as a specific feature for transdisciplinary research could help distinguish this research practice from ordinary research in terms of which problems that are in the foreground. A demarcation line is set up between science and society.111 interdisciplinarity is.110 Consequently. 110 40 .
Jasanoff & Wynne 1998. Another attempt to describe the approach to problem solving is done by using the distinction between hard and soft systems thinking. as we have recognized.113 Bringing transdisciplinarity in line with this notion is evidently wrong. while in soft systems thinking they are ‘models which embody a particular stated way of viewing the world’. on the other hand. for instance either qualitatively or quantitatively. 113 41 .116 This has major importance for the notion of how disciplines may contribute to the model of the world. i. see e. Thompson-Klein 2004b p. 114.115 In systems thinking. Hence.114 Transdisciplinarity is furthermore attached. which presupposes that the disciplines work in a similar manner. 4.e. 444-445. 114. models that describe a certain phenomena in the world. Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008 p. 114. 362-263. 116 Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008 p. takes into account that scientific findings are meaningful only in For an overview on this demarcation line and criticism of it.117 Soft systems thinking.knowledge into society. a core feature concerns modelling the world. transdisciplinarity is more likely to be related to the notion of mutual learning between science and society. The integration is dependent on each parameter being correlated to each other. Accordingly. passim. 117 Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008 p. in hard systems thinking. to the Mode 2 knowledge production which dissociates itself from the ‘informative’ role science ideally has had. disciplines contribute with parameters that play a role in the issue and help to enhance the model of the problem. This is for instance described by using the notion of ‘post-normal science’.g. with references to Peter Checkland. we need another way of describing the kind of problems that are in the foreground in transdisciplinary research. which breaks with the idea of linear thinking and is characterised by a high degree of system uncertainties and a strong need for political decision. transdisciplinarity is closely attached to a notion of a collaborative and reflexive knowledge production process in which all kinds of actors can take part. 114 See Funtowitcz & Ravetz 1993. which has inspired cross-disciplinarity in general. In hard systems thinking these models are considered ‘models of the world’. Funtowitcz & Ravetz 2008 p. 115 Horlick-Jones & Sime 2004 pp.
Nevertheless. there is an openness to the (methodological) approaches that are relevant in the analysis. the data. neither ‘openness’ nor ‘problem focus’ are 42 . problem solving is a concept used to characterise normal science in Kuhn’s terminology and is as such inflated with research practice in general. The integrative work concerns the disciplinary perspectives and not e. problem solving has a connotation of solution which is problematic in relation to that most problems inherently include values and as such cannot be solved in a definite way. that there are no clear borders between disciplinary or transdisciplinary problems. Secondly. I suggest that we use ‘openness’ as a key to understand the feature of ‘problem focus’ in transdisciplinary research.relation to the conceptual and methodological framework. the problem is of an open character which could be contrasted with an artefact. With ‘openness’ we draw on soft systems thinking and understand that transdisciplinary research has an open attitude towards the problem at stake. Firstly. i. This approach could be described by ‘openness’. firstly.g. actors and perspectives relevant for the knowledge production process). accordingly. who the knowledge producer is and the (methodological) approaches that are adequate. secondly. one cannot set up limitations on the kind of problems that can be investigated from a transdisciplinary point of view beforehand. To summarise. Hence. thirdly.e. However. we can point out that problems investigated with a transdisciplinary approach often deal with life-world problems. that the problem in focus lacks evident system boundaries. To use ‘openness’ as a main understanding of the kinds of problems that are in focus in transdisciplinary research implies. which includes. As one can recognise. and. which lack evident system boundaries and thus have an inherently open character. problem solving is also used to describe transdisciplinarity. it is instead the approach to the problem that distinguishes transdisciplinary from disciplinary research (for instance including the choice of methods. there is an openness to the disciplines and actors that are relevant to the analysis of the problem. However there are strong reasons to prefer ‘problem focus’. It is this latter approach of soft systems thinking that could be used as a foundation for outlining the particular notion in transdisciplinarity on the problem-solving approach.
which should not be confused with communication. 3. Communication is. Nevertheless. as Elzinga recognised. 119 118 43 . in order to manage these problems. Notice that the essence is mutual learning. 1051. See also Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008b. Communication is decisive in transdisciplinary research (and for collaboration in general).119 Once again. we must consider this feature together with others shaping transdisciplinarity and turn next to the feature ‘collaboration’.2. 355. One motive behind the call for collaboration emerges from a focus on complex and multidimensional problems. various forms of knowledge about the problem and different conception of how to manage the problem. Elzinga 2008 p.120 Wickson et al. Hence. but communication itself is not the method for achieving transdisciplinarity. the linear model between science and society is considered inadequate.118 Another motive behind emphasising collaboration emerges from the goal of transferring research results to society. A similarity between these two approaches concerns mutual learning. collaboration is crucial in transdisciplinarity and one need to ask why collaboration is essential. different forms of collaboration are considered necessary. but rather ‘a uni-directional flow where scientists speak to the public’. 2006 p. interests shaping the problem.2 Collaboration Talking about collaboration in relation to research practice and crossdisciplinary approaches in general one could easily discern two distinct forms: collaboration between researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds and collaboration between researchers and practitioners. not necessarily seen as a question of dialogue.unique for transdisciplinarity and could be features of other kinds of research practices as well. 120 Recognise though that today probably no-one would defend this linear model and reflexivity is a core concept in all kinds of theories on knowledge production. if practitioners are involved in the research process mutual learning can be achieved using the problem at hand. These two different forms of collaboration could definitely be used in all kinds of research practice and should not be considered unique to transdisciplinarity.
but as noted it is not only the case when it comes to transdisciplinarity. 2006 p. one should acknowledge what notions that are lying behind the use of certain concepts. 124 Wickson et al. 123 Thompson-Klein 2004a p. 121 Wickson et al. 1051. As Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn emphasise ‘the first step in mutual learning and integration is to acknowledge the diversity of perspectives and to explore and clarify Nevertheless. 2006 p.124 Collaboration in transdisciplinary research. Hirsch Hadorn et al. and is pivotal in realising the goal of addressing life-worlds’ problems.121 A transdisciplinary research distinguishes and emphasise collaboration both between researchers from different disciplines and between researchers and practitioners: collaboration is requested not only among disciplinary scientific programs but also among scientists and individuals who represent the group of affected persons. furthermore. i. See also Horlick-Jones & Sime 2004. objectives and resources.Collaboration is a critical feature of transdisciplinarity. This second form of collaboration not only transgresses scientific disciplines because it will also implements external expertise in defining a solution to a given problem. However. includes an idea of mutual understanding. 517. Collaboration in various forms is a feature in all kinds of research (disciplinary and cross-disciplinary). but not the underlying idea. See also Thompson-Klein 2004a. 2008b. a notion that all kinds of actors have (equal) competence to provide substantial knowledge to the problem in focus. 122 Balsiger 2004 p. 412. 44 .e. the concepts could have changed. 1051.123 Collaboration is considered essential in giving a ‘reality check’ for the research process. used to analyse and resolve them.122 Thompson-Klein uses this notion and suggests that transdisciplinarity includes an involvement of stakeholders in the definition of problems and those criteria. one could argue that collaboration in transdisciplinarity research could be distinguished from collaboration in for instance multidisciplinarity or interdisciplinarity in terms of how it is managed and regarding who is involved in the process.
the cooperation seems to be strongest in the first and last phase. 415.131 Hirsh Hadorn et al. 128 Hirsch Hadorn et al. conclude that participation is 125 126 Pohl & Hirch Hadorn 2008 p. 2008b p. The iteration between this step and the two former is utterly critical. in the third phase the projects are taken back to the social and scientific contexts. 2008b p. Hirsch Hadorn et al. See also Pohl et al. 114. 2008b p.130 In the second phase.125 Accordingly. 35. research questions are structured in more detail and investigated in a way that lets diverse aspects and perspectives be integrated. Elzinga 2008 p. 35. Finally. emphasise that the transformation compromises new insights and alters the perceptions of the problem matter. 127 Elzinga 2008 p. problem analysis. emphasises that this phase is resource demanding and that ‘a broad range of participants and competences have to be involved to properly identify the relevant scientific disciplines and actors in the lifeworld’. and bringing results to fruition (implementation). 350. problem analysis. 2008b p.. 36-37. 45 . This second phase is more focused and characterised by the fact that different sub-projects are running. 132 Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2008b pp. 36.their differences’. cooperation could differ depending on where we are in the research process and taking starting points in the three phases. 130 Hirsch Hadorn et al. distinguish between three basic phases in projects: problem identification and structuring. In this phase one takes into account the state of knowledge that exists in relevant disciplines and among actors in society.132 Considering the experiences from transdisciplinary research one could.126 Nevertheless. 2008b p. Hirsch Hadorn et al.127 We will look further into this. 350. 32. as Elzinga does. p. collaboration is pivotal in transdisciplinary research and the involvement of actors from life-world must be the case already during the problem identification phase of the research project. 131 Hirsch Hadorn et al. 36.128 In the first phase – problem identification and structuring – researchers and actors in the life-world work jointly on identifying and understanding the nature of the specific problem. 129 Hirsch Hadorn et al. acknowledged by Hirch Hadorn et al.129 Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2008. identifying important aspects and determining the research questions.
but also by reflecting upon who gets empowered by the research and if there are any marginalised groups. To summarise. but a crucial issue is whether this means that transdisciplinary research cannot be conducted by a lone researcher. collaboration is a self-evident feature in transdisciplinary research and has the double meaning of collaboration between researchers from different disciplines and between researchers and practitioners. argue whether a lone researcher could adopt transdisciplinary approaches. Elzinga 2008 p.134 Second.e. 135 Wickson et al.133 In the first and third phase participation is instead held with a variety of actors. how the project is managed and the way the project is initiated. collaboration is described in line with an idea of mutual learning between the involved actors. which 133 134 Elzinga 2008 p. 46 . or ultimate implementation of the results’. but the ability to fuse knowledge from different disciplines and engage practitioners in the process of generating knowledge. but each project differs with respect to which actors are (or need) to be involved. This latter issue can be addressed by acknowledging the criteria used for defining target groups (the relevant participants) as well as those who make these definitions. 2006 pp. i. the most important aspect is not the various disciplinary perspectives. collaboration between members of different disciplinary tribes. one could understand collaboration between research and practice to be the most important form of collaboration in transdisciplinarity. First. However. When and how this collaboration is going to be conducted varies from project to project. 350. Moreover. we need to distinguish between effective participation and symbolic (or token) participation: ‘The former leads to empowerment while the latter involves would-be participants going through the motions of being consulted without really having any bearing on the problem definition. while the second phase is more focused on internal interaction. analysis. Elzinga points out two important aspects concerning participation.more prominent in the first and last phase.135 Further to this. Wickson et al. 357. 1051-1052. we need to address the question of who gets invited to participate and who is simply left out.
136 Reflection is a matter in all research. and methodology is not the feature that can be used to distinguish transdisciplinarity from interdisciplinarity. 137 Balsiger 2004 p. acknowledged by Elzinga 2008.g. 419. we now enter the field of methodologies appropriate for transdisciplinary research. Robinson 2008. which can address all kinds of problems and combine various forms of collaboration. The essential concern of reflexivity is e. we need to be sensitive to the power relations that prevail in the transdisciplinary endeavours (and in all research) and search for a greater degree of reflexivity. What is emphasised in the literature is that transdisciplinary research needs to respond and reflect the problem and context under investigation. for including actors. i. and could.3 Evolving methodology Ending last section with a plea for looking beyond the buzz words and acknowledging what is the matter in each project. According to Balsiger. As Elzinga concludes. there is no single methodology for transdisciplinary research. This is precisely what transdisciplinary is about!’137 Hence there is no single methodology or set of methodologies that can be used to distinguish transdisciplinarity from other research practices. emphasise. However. or criteria used. we must also consider the process. should one interpret Feuerabendt’s plea for plurality as a refusal to any form of methodological reductionism and to the idea that we can set up a given methodological rule or principle for guaranteeing a scientific approach. aiming at empowerment and that the actors are truly involved in the process from problem identification to implementation. 136 47 .2. be understood in line with Balsiger’s call for revitalising Feuerabendt’s ‘anything goes’. Notably. 3. in relation to transdisciplinarity.involves an idea that all actors are equal in the research process (regarding their thoughts. as well as whether participation is authentic. The argument ends with the statement that ‘the way we handle the solving of a specific problem or public interest /…/ is more important than the dogmatically correct use of rules and tests of theories.e. interests and knowledge). Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008. As Wickson et al.
112. in relation to transdisciplinarity. 1050. Nevertheless there are a number of goals. Essential to this. normative and practice-orientated knowledge’141 and they can be used to show how the different drivers and approaches are interrelated in the concept of transdisciplinarity. skills and approaches that are stressed as pivotal for transdisciplinary research. Accordingly adequate methods for doing transdisciplinarity must support these requirements and we could recall the notion expressed by the soft systems thinking approach above.transdisciplinarity – in contrast to multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity – is ‘characterised by an interpenetration of epistemologies in the development of methodology’. transdisciplinarity presents profound epistemological challenges and calls for a pluralistic approach to methodology.140 The four requirements above emerge from the goal to provide ‘descriptive. 141 Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008 p. and hence transdisciplinarity needs approaches that could deal with uncertainty and take into account the diversity of perceptions from various forms of actors.138 Hence. is the perception of the world. These could be elaborated upon using Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn’s description of transdisciplinarity: [Transdisciplinary research] deals with problem fields in such a way that it can: (a) grasp the complexity of problems. which in soft system 138 139 Wickson et al. 1050. 112. 20. and (d) develop knowledge and practice that promote what is perceived to be the common good. Wickson et al. (b) take into account the diversity of life-world and scientific perceptions of problems. 2006 p. (c) link abstract and case-specific knowledge.139 In literature on transdisciplinarity it is evident that there is no single methodological approach or set of methodologies that belongs to transdisciplinary research itself. 2006 p. see also Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2008 p. 48 . Pivotal in transdisciplinary research is its aim to grasp complexity. 140 Pohl & Hirsch Hadorn 2007 p.
412.g. methods and goals for producing knowledge.thinking draws upon the view that scientific findings only receive meaning in relation to a conceptual and methodological framework. The actors involved cannot only have their own perceptions and conclude their research by describing these (when it would be some sort of multidisciplinary research). 115. Integration is furthermore described as one of the major challenges of transdisciplinarity142 and could be focused on different aspects. Another way of describing this is by using ‘context-dependence’. 145 See for instance Langfeldt 2002. the latter considered the ultimate approach.).143 Depending on the object of integration the challenges differ. Sandström et al. Mobjörk 2004. 143 Pohl & Hirch Hadorn 2008 p. 2006 pp. for instance theoretical concepts. through interdisciplinarity. This process can be described as ‘integration’. An example of this pivotal role of integration is that the td-net conference for 2009 will focus on integrative work. methods appropriate for transdisciplinary research need to support the inclusiveness of different actors (the actors that are considered relevant to the problem matter) and promote discussion between these actors concerning their respective goals. Consequently. together Wickson et al. 1052-1053. which has consequences for who is adequate to do the integrative work. i. Bruun 2000 p. over to transdisciplinarity. 142 49 . Pohl et al. Integration is an essential feature of cross-disciplinary approaches in general and has been used to distinguish between various approaches to cross-disciplinarity including a hierarchy from multidisciplinarity. If knowledge is considered context-dependent we inevitably need to acknowledge the knowledge producers’ different interests. interests and values. but must be willing to adjust them.145 I have for instance shown that lack of integration has been a fundamental motive in both ex ante and ex post evaluation and. technical devices etc. 2005.144 This has been shown in relation to the evaluation of research. 2008 p. there is one more aspect that is needed in transdisciplinary research and that is the aim of contributing to managing the problem at stake. to be involved in a process of mutual learning and find ways of handling the problem at stake. However. mutual understanding or products (administrative rules or regulations. 16-17. 144 See e.e.
2008. an effect of this being that the integrative approach in transdisciplinary research takes its starting point in the conceptual framework used in the research process. 2006 p. and integration could also be performed by a limited number of people. but also a development of a coherent epistemological and methodological framework adequate for the research at stake. who states that transdisciplinarity is something more than integrating ‘objects’ (i. Integration of concepts. 147 146 50 .with failing leadership. 149 Ramadier 2004 passim. who characterise transdisciplinarity as an interpretation of the epistemologies in the development of methodologies150.148 We stated earlier that transdisciplinarity mainly concerns an approach similar to that of soft systems thinking. The statement that integration in transdisciplinary research is mainly characterised as being a process framing the whole research process and something that includes all participants is supported by Ramadier. Mobjörk 2004.149 Wickson et al. see e. Pohl et al. includes not only reflections of the methodologies used.151 Thompson-Klein refers to the idea of synthesis. who talks about ‘deconstruction’. but is not unique to transdisciplinarity and is not necessarily the same thing in all kinds of transdisciplinary research. Mobjörk 2004 pp. Integration of results presupposes (or is at least facilitated by) a coherent structure and a joint methodological framework. for instance results or concepts. and ThompsonKlein. 1050. 146-147. 148 For discussions on these issues. in such integration all participants need to be involved.147 Remembering the approaches of hard and soft systems thinking. research results).e. Integration is pivotal in transdisciplinary research. has been the most important argument for rejecting funds. on the other hand. 150 Wickson et al.146 Moreover this criticism from the funder to the research programme mainly concerned research programmes that spanned the boundaries between social science and natural sciences. 151 Thompson-Klein 2004a p..g. Bruun 2000. 524. there is different emphasis of how it ought to be integrated. 80-81. which is based on the principle that an object has Mobjörk 2004 pp.
e.one reality that research needs to reconstitute. 51 . To use synthesis to describe the integrative work could therefore be misleading due to the connotation synthesis has to integrating objects.156 In other cases researchers do not 152 153 Thompson-Klein 2004a p. 2008. 2008. 154 Schwaninger et al. 156 Robinson 2003.155 and back-casting. which ‘accepts that an object can pertain to different levels of realty. integration in transdisciplinary research is something that concerns the whole research process and concerns all participants. 155 Messerli & Messerli 2008. Consequently. with attendant contradictions. Which methodologies fulfil these requirements? Drawing from literature describing methodological approaches in relation to transdisciplinarity and from literature describing research experiences epitomised as transdisciplinary. we can distinguish: case studies. (3) dealing with context-specific issues. this conception is considered inadequate when it comes to transdisciplinarity. 524. paradoxes and conflicts’. Hence. Tompkins et al.154 scenario-methodologies. i. However. one should understand transdisciplinarity as requiring a deconstruction of the whole research process and aiming at a systematic and holistic approach (which not should be confused with unity).152 Thompson-Klein thus draws on Nicolescu’s ideas and interprets transdisciplinarity as involving a ‘capacity to take into the account the flow of information circulating between various branches of knowledge’153 and has similarities with the premises of soft system analysis. i. Thompson-Klein 2004a p.e. 2008. research results. Instead. 2008. 524. Carlsson-Kanyama et al. an adequate method for transdisciplinarity needs to be capable of: (1) including a variety of actors from different disciplines but also actors outside academia. dealing with issues or problems that arise from a local context. Walter et al. (2) allowing different (theoretical) approaches and perspectives (and not setting up prior limits on what kind of knowledge is considered relevant).
158 157 52 . one can easily discern that all these approaches leave room for joint learning between the participants and that the research practice strives for a mutual learning process between the participants. and as Robinson.3 ‘Transdisciplinarity’ and the embryo of two different kinds We have now addressed the major drivers behind the call for transdisciplinarity – knowledge economy. Besides workshops. acknowledges.160 3. We now come to the moment of summarising this and acknowledge core aspects important in analysing research practice. scenario analysis and backcasting are frequently referred to as being appropriate for bringing together a diverse range of actors. 2006. See also Carlsson-Kanyama et al. passim. which take the same standpoints using the analytical framework above. Bergman & Jahn 2008. of both a qualitative and a quantitative nature. Within each methodological approach a multitude of methods are used. 844. but could be distinguished when analysing ‘transdisciplinarity’ more Höchtl et al. a major shift has though occurred. In the experiences expressed by Robinson. 160 Robinson 2008 p. 159 For a historical development of back-casting. collaboration and evolving methodology. For this I suggest a distinction between two different kinds of transdisciplinary research. 2008. Hence we can witness a gradual change. letting different stakeholder groups and the public at large be directly included in the process of defining and evaluating the scenarios.denominate the approaches used. see Robinson 2008. triangulation is of great importance. environmental imperative and engaged population – as well as three features characterising transdisciplinarity – problem focus.158 Despite the term used. for instance.157 or give labels specifically related to their project. the researchers have themselves articulated the scenarios and could have made formal investigations on the stakeholders’ notions of the issue. letting back-casting come close to ‘interactive social science’. Baccini & Oswald 2008 label their approach as Synoikos method and Netzstadt model.159 Back-casting has a quantitative framework and the stakeholders’ role in the scenario articulation has been indirect.
but also pivotal in Mode 2 knowledge production and in Beck’s ‘risk society’161 and we can acknowledge that the need for reflexivity is closely related to the complexity of the problem investigated. emphasising problem solving has a tendency to limit 161 Beck 1992/1986. firstly. In addition to this goal. i.closely. we can conclude that transdisciplinary research has a diffuse body of content. Transdisciplinary research is considered successful when it integrates different views. We begin with summarising the essence of transdisciplinary research. The notion of reflexivity is not only essential in transdisciplinarity. perspectives and interests. Problems that for instance span the boundaries between nature and society or emerge from the negative side-effects from modern society’s technological development are qualitative of another character and call for a transformation of science in its basic conception (what science is and how it ought to be conducted). but cannot address refined distinctions. when we addressed this issue above we concluded that problem solving at least had two weaknesses. it can address diverse problems. openness towards methodologies used. How to do this could be considered a problem. interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity). We have furthermore stated that theoretical and methodological issues are closely related and that the research demands a highly reflexive process including reflection on the epistemological foundation and world view. The analytical framework is hence restricted to make a rough distinction (and thus distinguish between different approaches such as multidisciplinarity. Secondly. actors involved and problems at hand.e. However. 53 . problem solving is a concept characterising most research and hence does not in itself distinguish transdisciplinary research from other kinds of research. Instead. and we could describe this using a problem-solving approach. include a variety of actors and use a multitude of methods. we have found that transdisciplinary research can be best described by using the notion of ‘openness’. besides addressing problems considered important. Note that we have not being able to identify any driver or feature unique to transdisciplinarity.
1.1). reflexive and interactive science. In contemporary knowledge production.e. These two notions are evidently illuminating the two currents shaping cross-disciplinarity. and as such becomes alienated from the essence of transdisciplinarity. i. Considering collaboration in relation to transdisciplinarity we identified that collaboration concerns both between disciplinary perspectives (which does not necessarily imply that there needs to be several researchers involved) and between academia and practitioners.3). science should take a bigger role in the knowledge intensive production and contribute to society’s economic development. Considering the third driver – engaged population – we can recall that this notion creates new demands for knowledge as well as providing new opportunities for collaboration in knowledge production (section 3. This latter form of collaboration is indispensable in transdisciplinary 54 . Nevertheless.2. Accordingly there is a risk that the problem-solving approach is closely attached to a research process that circumscribes the epistemological and methodological challenges involved. problem focus was considered more appropriate.transdisciplinary research to problems that are considered important by an actor in society and that the research task is to present solutions that the actor considers adequate. where ‘knowledge economy’ is attached to an instrumental role in which science ought to address stakeholder’s problems and deliver solutions considered adequate by these. we must acknowledge the different effects the drivers seem to have on the research approach to the problem. Nicolescu’s philosophy and the problem-solving approach (see section 2. demands for public participation are evidently increasing and the notion of ‘mutual learning’ is essential. which particularly emerges from (or correlates to) the driver ‘knowledge economy’. which is more closely related to the call for a major transformation of science and as such to a context-dependent. In this latter approach. This is rhetorically expressed as science having to solve stakeholder’s problems. This can be compared with the driver ‘environmental imperative’. as well as using the idea of openness in order to understand the feature of a transdisciplinary problem.1. As argued in section 3.
we also recognised that collaboration. there is no single method or set of methodologies that is self-evident in transdisciplinary research. 2008 p. As noted in relation to scenario analysis. scenario analysis and back-casting are used because they promote mutual learning.162 Nevertheless. but experience shows that methods such as social learning approaches. To conclude. Using the word ‘stakeholder’. participation and mutual learning are key words in contemporary knowledge production theories. (b) allowing different (theoretical) approaches and perspectives. In order to address this I consider that the word used to denominate the participants – the collaborative partners – could indicate the underlying idea. we must pay attention to the meaning behind the use of single words and not only take for granted the use of a specific word and its content (see section 3. acknowledging the feature ‘collaboration’ we need to take into consideration the actors included and the roles they are given (or can take).research and is a mean to achieve integration.e. that someone owns a problem which researchers should contribute to solve. these can be articulated with more or less active participation 162 Pohl et al. can include a variety of methods (both qualitative and quantitative) and can address life-word problems. As was the case with collaboration. i. As such. 415. for instance. i. is it important to pay attention to what is expressed on the one hand and what is supported by the framework chosen on the other. has a connotation of ‘ownership’. we concluded that an adequate method for transdisciplinarity needs to be capable of: (a) including a variety of actors from within and outside academia. Such research is easily strangled in terms of testing ideas that are not considered important by the participants. and (c) dealing with context-specific issues (section 3. Turning to the feature evolving methodology.e. Consequently. Using words like practitioners or societal actors are instead much more open in character in terms of who is included in the research process. 55 .2. Another issue to take into account is the roles the actors (independently of the word used for naming these) are considered to take.3).2). the extent to which are they actively involved in the research process (in knowledge production).2.
With this distinction in mind. The difference between the two forms has substantial implications on the integrative work and as such on the whole idea of what successful transdisciplinary research comprises. fulfils the requirements set up in the analytical framework above (section 2. Integrating a wide range of actors’ views. participatory transdisciplinarity. The first. notions and ideas of the common good is a much more delicate task than restricting the actors included and/or circumscribing their role in the research process. This role that the actor is given (or is allowed to take) is pivotal in addressing the challenges of transdisciplinary research and is of such a qualitative nature that it can be used for distinguishing between two different forms of transdisciplinarity. methods chosen and the problem addressed). we now turn to the three programme proposals and from these empirical examples we develop this notion of transdisciplinarity further. responding transdisciplinarity.from various actors. The second.3). 56 . fulfils the open character on all levels (actors involved. This can also be the case when it comes to transdisciplinary research where actors can be more of a responsive or active participant. but is delineated through the goal and process of conducting the research.
My focus was rather to examine how three research groups responded to one particular research call and to contribute to an analysis of how transdisciplinary research is under formation in contemporary knowledge production. definitely one that particularly stresses the need for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. A decision on these is expected to come in August 2009. and the methods considered appropriate. Urban Futures: A call for a transdisciplinary research programme Among the Swedish funding agencies is the Foundation for Environmental Strategic Research. (2) To describe which methods suggested and discuss these with emphasis on how they can contribute to establishing and maintaining cooperation between various kinds of actors. Evidently these texts are important for the three research groups and we will touch upon their interpretations in the analysis. with particular emphasis on discussing the distinction between responding and participatory transdisciplinarity. 57 . I did not use the call itself or its prestudy as data for analysis. I also wanted to test the fruitfulness of the distinction between responding and participatory transdisciplinarity. the actors considered important (and that are or should be included).4. I was particularly interested in how transdisciplinarity is interpreted. I use these three proposals here as a foundation for analysing different approaches in response to a call emphasising interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Mistra issued a call in the area of Urban Futures and in April 2009 three proposals were submitted to Mistra for appraisal. (3) To interpret each proposal’s conception of transdisciplinarity in the light of the description in the former section. but examined the main points in the call. I would like to emphasise that the analysis did not seek to evaluate the proposals. In May 2008. Mistra. Before turning to the results. The main goal with the analysis was threefold: (1) To analyse the actors considered pivotal for collaboration and the roles they are going to have.
five research clusters were identified with the headings concerns on urban metabolism. p. 166 Ibid. p. innovation and creativity by linking research more closely with education and training as well as with urban policy and action. 1. p. urban governance and management.1 Mistra call for Sustainable Urban Futures Mistra’s call ultimately concerns the establishment of ‘an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary centre in collaboration with Swedish cities and other stakeholders. 1. 58 .4. The call refers to key challenges to cities in terms of sustainable urban development.166 For this. 2. and by using methods that emphasise crossfertilization among these activities’. methods. 5 May 2008. but also new approaches. which deals with resource constraints and climate change. Mistra emphasises that the challenges in urban environmental sustainability are truly diverse in scale.165 Mistra emphasises that conventional ways of separating research from policy and practice are not adequate for building a network. 1. 167 Ibid. on the following theme: Rethinking Sustainable Urban Development in an Era of Globalization.167 With reference to the pre-study made before the call.164 The network is entitled ‘Mistra Interaction Platforms’ and is to be coordinated by a ‘Mistra Centre’. climate change. p. Mistra is prepared to fund a programme for a period of 10-12 year. Mistra.163 The long-term vision is ‘to make a difference to sustainable development by building an international network of knowledge and innovative platforms for urban development’. landscape and governance. The goal is to promote ‘knowledge. resilience. Ibid. Resource Constraints and Climate Change’. p. Ultimate deliverables are ‘new and deeper understanding of the challenge and dynamic complexity of cities. including phases for start up and finish. mindsets and innovative solutions. location and character 163 164 Urban Futures – call for pre-proposal. tools and instruments’. 165 Ibid. social and cultural resilience. learning. and a high-quality urban environment. and with a total amount of approximately 140 million SEK (13 million Euros). 4. including international partners.
‘mechanisms for mutual exchange and learning need to be strengthened at both national and international level. p. transdisciplinary interaction. the roles they have and the areas to be integrated). 6. I would say that achieving and maintaining collaboration is essential.2 Research group responses to the Mistra call What could be of importance when responding to a call that emphasises interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity? Considering the experiences and knowledge expressed in literature on cross-disciplinarity in general. The analysis thus particularly stressed this issue. In addition. Ibid. which is the main concern when it comes to interdisciplinarity and/or transdisciplinarity. interdisciplinarity is defined as ‘the mingling of scientific disciplines’. 7. as well as the methods considered pivotal for realising the vision of transdisciplinarity. We 168 169 Ibid. we now turn to the three proposals.5. footnote. 59 .168 Accordingly. p. it is a fundamental prerequisite for achieving integration. p. this illustrates the interpretation of the concept used for labelling the research in terms of the cross-disciplinary approach. and progress in building knowledge and capacity’. which includes acknowledging which actors are chosen to be collaborative partners and the role they are intended to have in knowledge production (recall that the challenges of integration are shaped to a certain degree by the actors included. 170 Ibid.171 With this as background.170 In relation to this.and that ‘mutual learning’ is an important way forward. 7. key tasks are ‘bridging the divide between urban research and practice and strengthening the local capacity’. 4. among stakeholders in different countries and various parts of the world’. 171 Ibid. p.169 Mistra’s own assessment is that the funding is generous enough and sufficiently long lasting to generate ‘a critical mass for in-depth and qualified interdisciplinary. and transdisciplinary as ‘a fusion of scientifically based knowledge with experience-based knowledge and know-how from practice and policy-making’.
the methods regarded as crucial and how transdisciplinarity is defined. and methods.2.1 International Centre for Urban Transformation. 4. the approach to (transdisciplinary) research.175 New knowledge will be gathered by ‘systematically observing and reflecting upon the outcome of the work in the Centre’ and theoretical findings will be developed from game theory. Stockholm In the proposal from the International Centre for Urban Transformation. a commitment to inter.174 The research aims at closing these gaps and developing ‘better theoretical basis for the study of sustainable urban transformations’. Stockholm 2009 p. 7. institutional theory.begin with an overview of the three proposals describing the goal. the mission is ‘to provide knowledge and inspire change processes that will enable urban governments.and transdisciplinary research and a willingness to actively engage in the build-up and operation of the Centre’.172 The proposers emphasise that ‘all members in our international consortium have a strong interest in sustainable urban development. stakeholders and citizens to make transformation towards sustainability’. the roles these actors are intended to have.173 The proposers identify three ‘interrelated sustainability gaps hindering the transformation towards urban sustainability’ as being: • A knowledge gap concerning insufficient data and isolated theories • An interaction gap between sectors in both academia and practice. 174 Ibid. the transdisciplinary approaches are analysed. forms of collaboration. Thereafter. 6-7. and between scientists and practitioners. 60 . 6. p. 172 173 International Centre for Urban Futures. pp. 175 Ibid. p. Ibid. and • A mindset gap reflecting the persistence of values formed during an era when human consumption and production were smaller and mainly local. core questions being the actors considered pivotal in the process. 5.
theories of governance and negotiation theories.176 The proposers identify four basic areas that must be addressed in order to transform the current urban policies and practices towards sustainability. These are: vertical and layered coordination, interaction with stakeholders and citizens, ongoing experimentation and learning, and reformulation of traditional questions.177 Furthermore, they stress that these four areas result from a number of dialogues held during the preparation of the proposal with the aim of identifying the challenges and conflicts. To achieve transformative change one must, according to the proposers, ‘ask both new and deeper questions and enable inter- and transdisciplinary learning so that our approaches to urban intervention can be reframed’.178 They recognise that ‘we lack theories that could help guide urban development towards sustainability’ and accordingly the programmes long-term goal is to develop ‘a new theory and understanding of urban transformations’.179 The scientific programme ‘has a primary interest in generating innovative solutions for urban transformation’ and the programme will ‘apply insights from the study of transitions and transformations to a transdisciplinary integration of three primary research perspectives: innovation theory, institutional theory, and resilience science’180 which are the perspectives that will be the hub for the synthesising research. Concerning partners, the proposers stress close interaction between ‘several university departments, governments and industry’, and emphasise that the research will be action-orientated.181 Nevertheless, citizens are also mentioned, as well as stakeholders. Furthermore, they bring about ‘far reaching ambitions for integrating disciplines, sectors, and urban stakeholders’, and the guiding principles are transdisciplinarity and innovation.182 Many of the common projects will have a
Ibid. p. 8. Ibid. p. 10. 178 Ibid. p. 14. 179 Ibid. p. 22. 180 Ibid. p. 23. 181 Ibid. p. 23, 25. 182 Ibid. p. 25.
variety of case studies and the consortium is convinced that ‘unless we are actively involved in the same projects, we will not achieve transdisciplinarity in practice’.183 Two general research tasks emerged: first, ‘how to scientifically analyse the different aspects of the relation between designed space and lived space’, and second, ‘how to synthesise knowledge on different dimensions of live space in the process of urban planning and design into a successful whole’.184 The first task is described as a ‘typically interdisciplinary task’ while the second is considered ‘transdisciplinary’.185 4.2.2 Centre for Sustainable Urban Transformation, Malmö The mission for the Centre for Sustainable Urban Transformation is to apply the concept of sustainable urban transformation in an active sense – ‘that is to bring about a more sustainable future’.186 ‘Through crossboundary research and the development and use of new and innovative methods and models for intensive collaborating and learning the Centre will contribute substantially to the progress in research and practice on sustainable urban development’.187 The proposers emphasise that the core idea of the Centre concerns ‘the mode and organization of work, where researchers and practitioners participate in activities on more equal terms and where the meeting between scientific disciplines and other stakeholders generates projects and initiatives at the Centre, which will promote learning and a mainstreaming of sustainable urban transformation’.188 The Centre will cover ‘interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects, which are organized as co-labs and do-tanks, involving both researchers and practitioners’.189 These collaborative studio environments, called co-labs and do-tanks, are the foundation for achieving the transdisciplinary approach and aim to bring together
Ibid. p. 28. Ibid. p. 51. 185 Ibid. p. 51. 186 Centre for Urban Transformation, Malmö 2009 p. 3. 187 Ibid. p. 3. 188 Ibid. p. 1. 189 Ibid. p. 1.
researchers and practitioners as well as the business sphere and urban citizens. The proposers emphasise the pluralism that characterises research on sustainable urban development and argue that interdisciplinary research and collaborative planning are still rare phenomena and that transdisciplinary cooperation is even more ‘exotic’.190 The main problem originates from the imbalance between the ‘constantly increasing number of research areas and the need for synthesis within action-orientated planning practice’.191 The proposers also argue that there is a need for connecting knowledge and experience, to bridge the private/public dichotomy, and to enhance the involvement of the urban citizen in the planning process. Consequently, a necessary condition is to ‘develop functional knowledge exchange, communication and learning processes around key aspects of ecological, social and economic sustainability’.192 It is emphasised that both researchers and practitioners have been active in identifying the state of art and that the partners see huge opportunities for developing and applying methods that enhance collaboration, communication and learning in order to support change of urban practice, planning and governance. The Centre aims at developing methods and approaches that ‘move away from linear models of knowledge production and dissemination – from researchers to practitioners – and towards intensive collaboration’.193 This demands, firstly, ‘advancing interaction and collaboration between researchers, disciplines, departments and universities through methods and models for interdisciplinary interaction, and with linkages to transdisciplinary approaches’, and, secondly, ‘advancing beyond ‘traditional’ methods for transdisciplinary interaction to greatly enhance collaboration between academia and practitioners (as well as urban citizens and the business sector)’.194
Ibid. p. 9. Ibid. p. 9. 192 Ibid. p. 10. 193 Ibid. p. 13. 194 Ibid. p. 14.
it is emphasised that this approach differs fundamentally from a customer-orientated perspective. p.3 The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures The focus for the Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures is the critical issues hindering sustainable urban development.A devising task for the Centre will be the development of new methods for working and researching that allows collaboration between various actors and integrates knowledge build-up between and within different specialist areas. Co-labs and do-tanks are considered fundamental for the aim of harnessing ‘the creativity of users (namely the perspective of individuals and communities) and practitioners to co-create and co-produce new services. The inspiration behind co-labs and do-tanks are think-tanks. urban structures and growth. systems and policies that better address complex problems’. is defined as the ‘urban citizens’ perspective. 198 Ibid. p. Co-labs and do-tanks are in this respect the organisational basis for the Centre. These include urban liveability and health. which is fundamental for the consortium’s approach. transport systems etc’198 and the user should accordingly be an active part in the knowledge production. cities. but the former are considered to be more capable of providing insights from ‘real problems’ and include the creativity of ‘real people’. 34. 33. 60.197 The user perspective.195 The proposers emphasise that ‘it is within and through co-labs and do-tanks that the meeting between research and practice and cross-fertilisation of ideas and knowledge from different sources will take place’. 4. A user perspective ‘could involve significant re-thinking of buildings. Co-labs and do-tanks ‘will have a strong task or theme and distinct field of studies that permit and stimulate the development of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches’.196 This approach is extensively described and is considered important due to its ‘process-orientated and cross-disciplinary nature’. 64 . Ibid. 195 196 Ibid. p. 197 Ibid. 33. p.2. public space.
9. 2009. pp.199 The proposers argue that the partners in the consortium offer a unique opportunity for fulfilling Mistra’s call and that the consortium during the planning process has ‘worked together on mapping out the current state of affairs by sharing knowledge/experience and shaping ideas’. and assessment criteria’.200 They point out that the work included a process of ‘building respect and commitment’. context and action are often left unconnected. NGO and others for joint learning and capacity. and mobilising and integrating research capacity and expertise for innovative transdisciplinary knowledge production. and ‘shaping the common platform’. 1. ‘building trust and confidence’. p.201 Four research themes are outlined: socio-economy and culture. theoretical and methodological approaches. 65 . facilitate and sustain such integration (interdisciplinary)’. understanding urban complexity. Integrating knowledge and experience from both practice and research poses particular challenges regarding content. p. 23. A major issue for the Centre is to create context in which knowledge and action can interact more effectively. p.203 From experience it has also been seen that knowledge. 3. 201 Ibid. and includes the collaborative initiation of problem-solving processes. The Centre will thus build ‘capacity to initiate.202 It is acknowledged that the missing points in the research themes so far concern the ‘links and systematic integration’.and urban environment and climate change. urban metabolism and land use. 202 Ibid. and urban governance. 203 Ibid. These four themes are considered ‘interdisciplinary. involving stakeholders from academia. which lead to work with 199 200 The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures. The proposal states that knowledge production focuses specifically on ‘transdisciplinary knowledge production. Ibid. but also potential locations for transdisciplinary knowledge production. public and private sectors. Innovative solutions and knowledge will be developed through: promoting mutual learning between cities in different development stages and in geographical and culturally diverse contexts. p. 3-4.
207 Transdisciplinary knowledge production not only involves coproduction of knowledge. p. 66 . theoretical and practical approaches and expertise as well as methods. are open to change and learning.206 The proposers emphasise the importance of understanding what is meant by collaboration in different contexts and the different roles participants could have. Ibid. 26. it is furthermore underlined that a main feature is ‘to re-contextualise transdisciplinary knowledge production back into more mainstream interdisciplinary and disciplinary scientific debates’. 208 Ibid. the second is a 204 205 Ibid. p. practitioner and business sectors. p.transdisciplinary research.205 Success requires ‘that participants actively develop and implement new mindsets. 24. Supporting the transdisciplinary approach organisation is critical and the Centre will be concentrated around ‘a Knowledge Hub. p. where information is translated to active intelligence for different types of users’. Transdisciplinary problem solving means that ‘traditional roles and responsibilities of academics and professionals must be brought into another type of activity. are self reflecting and are able to develop the capacity to integrate experiences and knowledge from different sources’.208 The ‘transdisciplinary paradigm’ that frames the Centre is expanded upon extensively in the proposal. transdisciplinary projects. it includes also social learning and negotiation between multiple actors. and a major challenge is to integrate conceptual. as well as across different decision-making and planning activities’. 206 Ibid. namely collaboration over academic disciplines. and practical test sites applications and demonstrations’. projects and applications. 25. Concerning transdisciplinary research. 207 Ibid. The proposers distinguish between two main interpretations of the concept. the first is orientated towards the ‘transcendence of separate disciplinary perspectives’. 23. p. Mutual learning and joint activities are thus pivotal in the research projects.204 Transdisciplinary knowledge production will take place in the main activities of the Centre: research. 24.
the second as supporting functions so that transdisciplinary knowledge production can become active in research. Ibid. for instance commercial partnerships and triple helix. such activities seldom fully represent issues related to public interest. pp. 213 Ibid. the third as facilitating the practice orientation of the research activities. 53-54. They emphasise that ‘to our understanding. and strategies and know-how for promoting change. 52-53. pp. p. 67 .211 The transdisciplinary research is thereafter described through three different levels of research: the first level focusing on integrating knowledge needs. policy-makers.212 All activities in the Göteborg Center aim to increase ‘understanding of how the different conceptual frameworks of different stakeholders (researchers. Target and Transformative Knowledge. etc. However. socially responsive and inclusive transdisciplinary knowledge production’. For supporting the latter. methods and tools emerging from real life settings are considered crucial and important methods are observation and participatory observation. These are referred to in the proposal as: Systems.213 209 210 Ibid. projects and application/demonstration. practitioners. 212 Ibid. action-orientated research. however. 53.210 The conceptual framework that will be used for guiding the Göteborg Center is based on three key areas: factual knowledge and experience. such as sustainable urban development’ and note that there is a risk that the growing focus on the market ‘will marginalize other types of transdisciplinary work’. 56-57. p.‘problem-orientated. pp. social goals and values. the proposers also acknowledge that other forms of knowledge production go under the banner of transdisciplinarity. comparative studies and evaluation. 53.) can be transgressed and integrated in transdisciplinary knowledge production’. company managers.209 The latter refers to Mode 2 knowledge production and is the definition that forms the foundation for the Centre’s approach. 211 Ibid.
as well as having 214 International Centre for Urban Futures. Stockholm 2009 p. actors’ roles and work on methods In the proposal from Stockholm the relation to practice is considered a core feature and the proposers argue the need to bridge between academic research and planning practice. we take these descriptions further and focus on (1) the actors to be included in the programme. I refer to each proposal by the city behind it in the following text. not research practice. (2) the roles these actors are intended to have. However. 4. Action research and case studies are also considered important for stimulating links between research and practice and for achieving participation from important stakeholders or practitioners. one emphasises the need to integrate different fields of knowledge and different sectors (particularly academic research and planning practices) and talks about the need for innovative approaches. Furthermore. To facilitate the analysis.3. All kinds of actors are mentioned – institutions. All of this is rather self-evident considering the call. cf. All proposers stress the need for new questions and approaches to the field of research and point out that interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are important in this respect. stakeholders. pp.3 Actors. these are the following three: university. (3) the methods regarded as crucial (for achieving cooperation).214 The proposers argue that some partners are co-partners and contribute to the work by being co-leaders of projects. 25. and (4) the conceptions concerning the transdisciplinary approach.4. 68 . approach methods and the transdisciplinary We can begin by noting that all three proposers emphasise that the proposal is the result of a joint process between the actors in the consortium behind the proposal. Note also that it is only intentions that is analysed. Joint meetings and workshops have been held and each consortium consists of a variety of actors considered important for urban development and urban transformation. 10-11. interest groups. professions. governance and industry.1 Actors. citizens – but when the proposers explicitly describe which actors ought to be involved.
The ‘citizen-perspective’ is contrasted with a ‘consumer-perspective’ and the former aims to ‘place users at the core 215 216 Interview Björn Hårsman. private and non-governmental organisations – and the word particularly used to talk about the partners are ‘practitioners’. but the issue is utterly important in terms of how actors can fulfil the role of co-partner (it is a matter of dealing with the power relationship). building. Furthermore they emphasise the need to involve citizens. From one hand it looks as though the Stockholm proposal particularly emphasises the three main bodies in the Triple Helix approach.215 These co-partners have to be engaged in environmental (urban) issues and partners are chosen to represent important areas (energy. planning). no non-government organisation is included as a co-partner and it is unclear whether there are any special obligations on the partners with respect to how they are going to contribute (e. Hårsman argued in his interview that their involvement is motivated to a certain degree from a democratic point of view (it is important to engage citizens about issues on their future). communication. citizens are also acknowledged as important. i. KTH.representatives on the board. university.216 At the moment. 69 . On the other hand. public. KTH. the citizens’ role seems to have another character. but also includes sub-groups for applying research activities. The impression I acquired is that it is considered important to include citizens’ knowledge in the research projects. Interview Björn Hårsman. Moreover. through co-funding). Accordingly. Regarding participation by citizens’. However.e. but the citizens themselves are not regarded as important actors within the research process. governance and industry. We can thus recall the discussion above of the different roles that participants can have (are allowed to have) and that the Stockholm proposal particularly includes established partners. they are narrowing the group essential in the integrative work. he stated that interaction with citizens is needed to obtain their knowledge.g. In Lund’s proposal a great variety of actors are mentioned – academia. which is considered crucial for transforming urban life in line with the sustainability vision.
but is discussed.of the planning process rather than on the periphery’. The proposers discuss different approaches to transdisciplinarity and collaboration and argue that the ‘public interest’ is played down in many approaches. 60. 26. practitioners.220 The experiences of practitioners are considered necessary when dealing with the societal problems we are facing today and thus we need knowledge production to promote this. Lunds University.218 Essential attributes for being a partner include an interest in participating in the activities. p. policy-makers.217 This indicates that the intention is to actively involve citizens (and practitioners of all kinds) in the knowledge production process. The proposers for instance 217 218 Centre for Urban Transformation. 219 Interview Lena Neij. Even though the proposal does not specifically establish who the participants are or which role they have. company managers. which together with an action research approach are intended to promote mutual learning processes between the actors involved. where information can be transferred between different types of users. Interview Lena Neij. 221 The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures. but the term stakeholder is also used and the proposers exemplify these as being researchers. time and an ability to dispose of resources for participating: whether the Centre will support groups that are considered important but not able to join without economic support has not been settled. but is pivotal to address the sustainable urban future.219 In the proposal from Gothenburg. The proposers also emphasise that each research team will develop cooperation with practitioners. 70 . 2009. Lunds University. An important tool for strengthening the collaborative approach is the co-labs and do-tanks. Mutual learning is considered essential and the Centre will be organised around ‘a Knowledge Hub’. 53. participants are mostly labelled users or practitioners.221 In the proposal from Gothenburg. 2009. private and public organisation is addressed as well as non-governmental organisation and the need to take the ‘public interest’ in the first place is emphasised. Malmö 2009 p. 220 The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures. p. it is evident the centre aims at a high degree of inclusiveness of who these are and their crucial role for the knowledge production process.
which could be regarded as virtual or actual spaces for joint activities. Interaction is evidently an issue in all three proposals and we have already touched upon ways of promoting this. the Centre (if funded) will work extensively on developing methods adequate for the research tasks. comparative studies. are open to change and learning. the choice of methods mainly concerns the skills and goals that are promoted but otherwise this is an open issue.222 They furthermore talk about mutual learning. Gothenburg University. and argue for a problem-orientated. and able to develop a capacity to integrate experience and knowledge from different sources. p. case studies. and in Stockholm’s proposal ‘Urban Laboratory’. are self-reflecting. The three proposals suggest different organisational approaches. 2009. In the case of Gothenburg’s proposal. In the proposal from Gothenburg it is labelled ‘Knowledge Hub’. Interview Merritt Polk. socially responsive and inclusive knowledge production. action research. in Lund’s proposal ‘Co-labs and Do-tanks’.223 Examples of adequate methods are given and they are similar in that they emerge from real world settings. The organisational principles are particularly elaborated on in the proposals from Lund and Gothenburg (they are not neglected in the proposal from Stockholm. which is contrasted with approaches taken by commercial partnerships and the Triple Helix approach. She also underlined that in the first two years of operation. examples being observational and participatory observation.emphasise the need to take the public interest as a starting point. Gothenburg University. ‘Knowledge Hub’ is suggested as a foundation for transferring knowledge between different kinds of users. 223 222 71 . but not elaborated on to the same extent). Hence. The proposers argue that transdisciplinary knowledge production not only involves co-production of knowledge.224 The inspiration of action research is evident in all three proposals. 224 Interview Merritt Polk. and link these goals to the methodological approaches for the centre. 53. A successful process requires that the participants develop and implement a new mindset. The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures. scenario analysis and back-casting. but also includes social learning and negotiating between various actors.
Turning to the proposals we begin with Stockholm’s. Stockholm 2009 p. is that here we have ‘responding transdisciplinarity’. and interdisciplinarity is defined as a ‘mingling of scientific disciplines’ and transdisciplinarity as ‘a fusion of scientifically based knowledge with experience-based knowledge and know-how’. both interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are called for. 22. with transdisciplinarity including actors outside academia. However. This proposal is characterised by thorough descriptions of the theoretical perspectives that are shaping the research and the proposers emphasise the need to develop theories that could help to guide urban development towards sustainability. My interpretation of this. i. and on-going evaluations that can provide feedback into the process. 7. In the call.e.What is particularly emphasised in the Gothenburg and Lund proposals is the need for developing a shared vision. 72 . The approaches suggested for organising each centre are also motivated by their relevance for a transdisciplinary approach. we must also take into account the tactical thoughts that can lie 225 226 International Centre for Urban Futures. activities that are shaped by academia.3. taken together with the approach towards the actors considered pivotal and the role actors ought to have. In general. International Centre for Urban Futures. The transdisciplinary approach Approaching the issue on how the three proposals have defined transdisciplinarity we inevitably need to take into account the content of Mistra’s call. 22. these definitions are well in line with international literature on interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity and the major difference between interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity lies in the form of collaboration. identifying and talking about assumptions and values.2. the iterative process between problem analysis and research. Accordingly.226 The research will particularly include three research perspectives and these constitute the hub for synthesising research. Stockholm 2009 p.225 The Centre’s long-term goal is also emerging from this notion and is to develop ‘a new theory and understanding of urban transformation’. when these descriptions are made and when the goal is set up there is a strong focus on scientific activities. 4.
9. KTH. 2009. The two types of transdisciplinarity – responding and participatory – to a certain degree correspond to these two streams. The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures. it would be the former. it can be seen that two distinct streams of ideas have been shaping the research agenda: a focused. Hårsman expressed the he believed that Mistra particularly will evaluate the scientific content. which is considered pivotal in transdisciplinary research. 229 See e.behind a research proposal. but it is evident that the Stockholm proposal emphasises the development of (scientific) theories and argues a need to synthesise research (which is not particularly pivotal in transdisciplinarity). 23-26. p. pp. In both these proposals much effort is also devoted to describing how this cooperation is going to be organised. solution-orientated approach. and in Gothenburg’s through the Knowledge Hub. this is taken with reference to international literature in the field. in Lund’s proposal it is through the co-labs and do-tanks.229 Transdisciplinarity is referred to as a paradigm influencing contemporary knowledge production and in Interview Björn Hårsman. scaling down the perspectives and facilitating the possibility to reach a certain goal. 2009. and an approach emphasising openness and reflexivity. Crucial in the Gothenburg proposal is its comprehensive descriptions on the transdisciplinary approach. The Gothenburg and Lund proposals both deal with cooperation between researchers and practitioners.228 as is the need for reflexivity (for instance expressed by the need to self-reflect over one’s own values and mindset as well as over one’s own notion of collaboration and the different roles various actors can have). The theoretical and methodological challenges in carrying out transdisciplinary research are considered.g. Recalling the history of cross-disciplinary perspectives in general and the investigation of transdisciplinarity in particular. even though its call on transdisciplinarity. The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures. and if the Stockholm proposal is to be placed in one of these. 228 227 73 .227 The extent to which this notion affected the choice of words and formulations in the proposal is impossible to determine.
In the description of the different approaches to cross-disciplinarity in general. the second is a ‘problem-orientated. including the public. Gothenburg or Stockholm proposals. the first is orientated towards the ‘transcendence of separate disciplinary perspectives’.e. therefore.230 The latter is referred to as Mode 2 and an appropriate question is whether this approach is more or less attached to responding or participatory transdisciplinarity. 5. Recalling earlier discussions on Mode 2 we can discern a tendency to being normative and the theory itself has not emerged from research experiences. interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity (section 2. 2009.the Gothenburg proposal a distinction is made between two different forms. They are also more unequivocal in their call for including practitioners of all kinds. the main emphasis was placed on investigating literature on transdisciplinarity with the aim of outlining how we ought to understand this concept. social responsive and inclusive transdisciplinary knowledge production’. This. However. To answer that question without deeper analysis of how the research would be set up is too speculative. pp. Transdisciplinary research of two kinds? In this report. indicates an approach closer to participatory transdisciplinarity. In literature from the 1970s the degree of integration was essential in the categorisation between different approaches towards cross-disciplinarity. multidisciplinarity. I conclude that the Lund and the Gothenburg proposals differ from the Stockholm proposal in that they contain a more thorough description of how to realise the vision of transdisciplinarity. between disciplines and between researchers The Göteborg Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Futures. we identified a changing discourse concerning the meaning of transdisciplinary research. 52-53. A consequence of this is a notion of transdisciplinarity that emphasises collaboration of two kinds.2). i. 230 74 . but alongside the growth of contemporary knowledge production theories like Mode 2 there has been a gradual shift in notion and a complementary perspective acknowledging the relationship between science and society. but without analysis of the research practices a definite conclusion cannot be drawn on the Lund.
clearly show that integration differs depending on whether it is common group learning. the deeper investigation of transdisciplinarity shows that this concept itself is of a comprehensive nature. If a broad variety of actors are included. 2008 p. The drivers. 415. Nevertheless. Integration is essential in transdisciplinary research. together with the notion of the actors considered important for collaboration and their roles in knowledge production. Taking these factors together. However. this definitely makes the integrative work more challenging due to the fact that a wider spectrum of world-views.3). Drawing upon this notion of different kinds of collaboration. The three approaches to reach integration discussed by Pohl et al. which affects who should be included to do the integration. namely responding transdisciplinarity and participatory transdisciplinarity. We elaborated briefly on the challenges (section 3. which is evident not least in the analytical framework set-up (section 2.3) and concluded that integration is something that particularly shapes the whole research process. or integration by sub-groups.231 We also concluded that collaboration can diverge depending on the phase in the research process. while still placing restrictions on the roles they are 231 Pohl et al. For instance two drivers – knowledge economy and environmental imperative – can be regarded as particularly important and are shaping different kinds of approaches. interests and goals need to be dealt with. which deals with collaboration of various kinds between disciplines. a more precise distinction emerges between interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. even though it raises questions on how to understand and distinguish transdisciplinarity. lay the foundation for distinguishing between different kinds of transdisciplinarity.and practitioners.2. it is evident that we can have an inclusive approach on who the collaborative partners are (and thus fulfil the requirements of being transdisciplinarity). I think this distinction is important. deliberation amongst experts (which can include experts from academia and outside academia). 75 . the integrative work differs fundamentally depending on what it is that should be integrated. This can be compared with interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research.
An intricate question is how much restriction can be imposed on cooperating actors and their roles while still maintaining transdisciplinarity. the critical discussion of the concept of sustainable urban development.allowed to take (or have). how to concretize the transdisciplinary approach. punkt 5 232 76 . Mistra’s board thus decided to grant (with some reservations not clarified in the decision) the proposal from the Gothenburg consortium. The distinction between responding and participatory transdisciplinarity could be appropriate for this purpose since it emphasises the form of cooperation without incorporating a valuation. Both forms can be fruitful and the valuation ought to be taken in relation to the goal. At the moment I have no answer to that question. PostScript Before printing this report Mistra came with its decision regarding its call on Urban Futures. However. I consider that it is possible to fulfil the requirements in the analytical framework and thus be considered transdisciplinary. a more precise notion of which research areas that are most urgent from a user perspective and has a strong support from proposed cooperation partners. according to Mistra’s board. which are of great importance in meeting the challenges in reaching integration. and the proposed strategies for securing the aspect of utility of the research conducted. A detailed work plan and budget for 2010-2012 will be delivered before Mistra’s board meeting in December 2009. Sammanträde Mistra 2009-08-19. Mistra’s board argues that the proposal from Gothenburg had advantages in comparison to the other two proposals regarding reflection. while at the same time having huge variety regarding the kind of actors included and their roles.232 The proposal had furthermore. Urban Futures. I therefore suggest that we should try to distinguish between various kinds of transdisciplinarity. The next step is now consultation between Mistra’s staff and the Gothenburg consortium. Dnr: FOR 2008/024-026.
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Interviews Björn Hårsman, Royal Institute of Technology, June 5th, 2009, 40 minutes. Merritt Polk, Gothenburg University, June 2 th, 2009, 45 minutes. Lena Neij, Lunds University, June 10th, 2009, 40 minutes. Homepages www.mistra.org www.journal-tes.dk www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/isr www.ijtr.org www.transdisciplinarity.ch/e/Publications
This report is an outcome from a cooperative project in the field of sustainable development between Örebro University and Mälardalens University College. I attended the start-up process for this project which was aimed at supporting and strengthening research addressing sustainable development issues. After leaving my position at Mälardalen University in June 2008 and as a new employee at the Swedish Defence Research Agency I was asked to come back to conduct an investigation on the formation of ‘transdisciplinarity’. I am grateful to my present employer for regarding this project as interesting and as such allowing me partial leave for five months during 2009. In setting up the project I had fruitful discussion with Peter Dobers, Karl-Henrik Dreborg, Katarina Eckerberg and Ingemar Elander. You have helped me to identify and address core issues within this report in different ways. I am also grateful to the three proposers on Mistra’s call on Urban Future, i.e. Björn Hårsman, Lena Neij and Merrit Polk, who allowed me to read the proposals during Mistra’s evaluation process of these. Thank you also for taking time for the interviews. During my work with this report I held two seminars which gave me valuable comments, thoughtful questions and ideas for managing the gathering dark clouds a project like this has. The first seminar was held on 25 May 2009 at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, where Henrik Carlsen and Daniel Jonsson gave particularly valuable comments. The second seminar was held on 28 May 2009 at Örebro University, where Ingemar Elander, Erik Hysing, Stig Montin and Ulrika Ulausson gave strong support and valuable comments. I am also grateful to Bengt Johansson at FOI who read the paper and gave comments in its final phase. Stockholm, August 2009 Malin Mobjörk
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