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Partnering for Change: Link Research to Societal Challenges

How can we address societal challenges with research? Investigate the principles, processes, and uses of transdisciplinarity.

Partnering for Change: Link Research to Societal Challenges
  • Duration6 weeks
  • Weekly study5 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $69Find out more

Discover the methods and tools of transdisciplinary research.

In today’s world, we face many complex societal challenges. Projects addressing these challenges often involve actors and stakeholders from different fields and disciplines bringing together their own perspectives or knowledge on a topic. Accordingly, collaborative transdisciplinary approaches are crucial for the success of a project.

On this course, you’ll explore how to meet the challenges of conducting effective transdisciplinary research. You’ll gain insights into a variety of case studies from different fields as you learn from the experiences of peers and experts.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsWe call complex what is difficult to understand. Systems made of parts that interact in manifold ways. Situations in which actors need to cooperate, even if they have diverging aims and approaches. Climate change is complex and so are societies. Migration starts from local necessity and leads into difficult contexts. Health care is a basic need, but faces intricate issues on a local, as well as, on a global scale. Today, we need to address many challenges that are complex. All have one thing in common. They cannot be tackled by one party alone. To improve them, several actors need to bring together what they know, jointly creating new knowledge. Researchers are often one of these actors.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsThey bring science to the table to address problems that can only be solved together with decision makers and affected people. For this, they propose an approach that is called transdisciplinary research. Our cause brings together scientists from several esteemed Swiss universities and institutions who let you experience transdisciplinary research. They have the vision to share it with everybody motivated to address complex societal challenges. Five cases show how the approach may vary when applied. Climate change demands new water management systems in the Alps. Mobile pastoralists need better health care. A peripheral village faces many challenges because of tourist development. Labour migrants from Nepal to India start to understand their rights.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 secondsA project supports the World Health Organisation to address the problem of antibiotic resistance. With these cases, you will explore how transdisciplinary research works. You will investigate benefits and pitfalls. In addition, experts explain the theoretical background, proposing methods and tools, and inviting you to develop your own ideas. Many people collaborated for this course, coordinated by the network for transdisciplinary research, which is part of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 secondsThey are convinced that the approach is promising to address the complex challenges in our current world.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 secondsSo find out what this means for you, for your research, for your career, for your life. We very much look forward to welcome you to the course.

What topics will you cover?

  • Research skills needed in order to produce relevant outcomes for society and academia

  • Transdisciplinarity: principles, research processes, and application

  • Guiding questions, phases, and steps in transdisciplinary projects

  • Pitfalls and opportunities in transdisciplinary projects

  • Ethical implications of co-production processes

  • Examples of transdisciplinary projects on sustainable development, migration, and health topics

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Develop your research skills as you investigate how to co-produce knowledge for society and academia.
  • Reflect transdisciplinarity – its principles, its research processes and the context in which it is promising.
  • Apply transdisciplinary approaches to societally relevant questions.
  • Identify guiding questions, phases and steps of transdisciplinary project.
  • Apply the principles and steps of transdisciplinary research to examples in order to reflect the implication for your own projects.
  • Reflect the role of scientists and stakeholders in society and consider the ethical implications of co-producing processes.

Who is the course for?

Students and researchers from all backgrounds; stakeholders involved in searching solutions for complex societal challenges. Mentoring will take place from Monday, March 30th to Sunday, May 10th, 2020.

Who will you learn with?

Jakob Zinsstag

Jakob Zinsstag

Professor of Epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the University of Basel, Switzerland.

Flurina Schneider

Flurina Schneider

Head of Land Resources Cluster of the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland

Tobias Buser

Tobias Buser

Project leader for Capacity Building at the Network for Transdisciplinary Research, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, and Executive Secretary of the Global ITD-Alliance

Susan  Thieme

Susan Thieme

Professor at the Institute of Geography, University of Bern. Research interests: Critical Sustainability Studies, Mobilities and Migration, Labour and Education, Digital Media, Social Learning

Christian Pohl

Christian Pohl

Co-director of the Transdisciplinarity Lab of the Department of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich

Caroline Näther

Caroline Näther

Research Associate at the Institute of Sociocultural Development of Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts - Social Work, Switzerland.

Stephan Rist

Stephan Rist

I am a professor of Human Geograpy at the Institute of Geography and holder of the UNESCO Chair on Cultural and Natural Heritage and Sustainable Mountain Development, Unviersity of Bern, Switzerland.

Didier Wernli

Didier Wernli

Senior Researcher at the Global Studies Institute of the University of Geneva. Background in medicine and international relations and interest for complexity science to research antibiotic resistance

Frédéric Darbellay

Frédéric Darbellay

Professor of Inter- and Transdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Children’s Rights Studies, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Who developed the course?

University of Basel

The University of Basel has an international reputation of outstanding achievements in research and teaching.

Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences

The Swiss Academies advance transdisciplinary and intercultural research with the Network for Transdisciplinary Research and the Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries.


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