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When is a transdisciplinary approach promising?

As we have explored in the previous steps, transdisciplinary research (TDR) is a very promising approach when it comes to addressing complex societal challenges. However, transdisciplinary approaches are not for every kind of research.

Based on empirical research 1, we propose aspects that help to decide if TDR is promising. Taking these aspects into account, it is then your turn to share your thoughts about where TDR could be promising using examples from your work.

Aspects that help to decide if TDR is promising

TDR involves scientists across disciplines and stakeholders from different sectors and co-produces knowledge to address societal challenges. But for which goals and in which context conditions should you engage intensely with stakeholders? This question is especially important, as both researchers and stakeholders have limited time and financial resources.

TDR is especially promising:

  1. when normative questions and changes are addressed;
  2. when knowledge is needed that enables actions;
  3. when the issues at stake are contested;
  4. when the actor diversity is high;
  5. when several actors have an interest in the project’s topic and goals.

What examples where TDR may be promising come to your mind? What could the approach mean for your work? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Author: Tobias Buser


1 Schneider, F. & Buser, T. (2018). Promising degrees of stakeholder interaction in research for sustainable development.. Sustainability Science, 13, 129-142.

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This article is from the free online course:

Partnering for Change: Link Research to Societal Challenges

University of Basel