Tobias Buser

Tobias Buser

Executive Secretary of the Global Alliance for Inter- and Transdisciplinarity.
Expert for collaborative research, with profound experience in designing, conducting and reflecting TDR processes.

Location Switzerland


  • To get an even broader perspective on methods and tools, check out the 'Toolkit Inventory' a project by the ITD Alliance Working Group 'Toolkits & Methods'

  • Hi Sheila, it is still very valuable to contribute to the discussion, there are still many learners around!

  • in step 2.4, the three types of knowledge are explained.

  • great to have you with us!

  • Dear Lisa, very well oserved!
    In tdr projeects with many diverging or even conflicting interests (often the case with complex and especially wicked problem situations), designing and conducting the interaction process has many similarities with mediation processes. Unraveling and working with the participant's needs, wishes and fears, and assuring all...

  • In different thematic fields, but facing similar challenges, our colleagues from New Zealand have systematized their experiences into a very helpful toolkit: the "integrated research toolkit", focusing on collaborating closely between different knowledge sytems and cultures.

  • This is indeed a key challenge. Find out in the upcoming weeks, how the MontanAqua team designed and conducted the collaboration process.

  • Additionally, it is also about getting to know high power/low interest actor's priorities and motivations and try to hook into their interests and lines of work; putting thier and not your projects into the focus.

  • For the framing it would also be important to consider the different actor's interest, needs, and power

  • Thank you for your thoughts!
    As PhDs are often at least partialy pre-defined and most PhDs are assesd from a disciplinary perspective (fortunately there is some progress to be seen with a growing number of interdisciplinary PhD programmes), only some TDR elements can be integrated.
    However, I hope the course may stimulate to include TDR approaches in your...

  • @KristinaPelikan I would say this is something to be discussed in each project, and the selection of language(s), formats/ journals, and ways of co-writing are challenging.

    In the above mentioned programme we co-produced a brochure aimed at administration and spatial development practitioners.
    The brochure was discussed with project partners, then...

  • @HeidiTuhkanen For the research programme "Room for People and Nature" we combined short anonimous questionnaires on content and satisfaction (max. 10 minutes) after each workshop for all participants, a short online questionnaire at the end of the programme for all participants, funders, and researchers and a reflection workshop at the end of the programme...

  • Great to have you all with us in the last week of the course!
    Looking forward to reflect with you on the trajectories of TDR projects and your own pathways and desire lines.

    If you running out of time of your 8 weeks of free access or want access to the material after the course use this address:...

  • It is highly important to discuss within the group(s) of partners and participants what and how to communicate. Especially when working in conflictive systems, it is also important to organise "safe spaces" to avoid harm for vulnerable groups.
    With publications (in td-projects this should not be only way to communicate) another question raises: who is part...

  • Welcome, and great to have you all with us for week five where we jointly explore ways to impact. Looking forward to your comments and discussion!

    If you running out of time of your 8 weeks of free access or want access to the material after the course use this address:

  • Still working on the publications, just a video prsentation available for now:

  • The posssibility to step into each of ther oles during your PhD would be a great opportunity to test where you feel comfortable, or in which direction you would like to develop.

  • In TDR framing phases I experienced it as important to start at the level of goals and key topics of a project from both societal and scientific perspectives, followed by iterations of proposing and discussing potential core questions and how they could contribute to he overarching goals of the project. On this base, research questions can be formulated. Using...

  • Dear Iris
    all your RQ tend more towards systems knowledge. For target knowledge your question could be reframed to e.g.: how could an accessible and sustainable urban transport system look like?
    And your transformation RQ: How can jobs be created that respect and foster local culture?

  • Dear Heidi,
    TDr framing phases are challenging and time consuming, but also already create outcomes on their own as S. MOser showed in her article:
    It is, however, crucial to design the co-design /co-production process in a way that allows differnt actors to contribute in different ways. In...

  • Dear Farhat
    You are absolutely right, it is of utmost importance to design, plan and facilitate the interaction process very carefully. It is also important, that the interaction process is given high priority within the whole project and is not seen as a add-on.

  • Great to have you on board for week 4!
    We have a rich week ahead, focussing on the co-production process and your potential roles.

    Your comments and experiences are a highly valuable part enhancing the joint experience of the course.

  • Dear Sarah,
    In a TDR project, the whole range of knowledge production modes is present. For example, to generate data and models on water availibility, there is still a need to conduct hydrological research.
    What makes this project an excellent example of TDR is, that the disciplinary approaches are integrated in intensive interdisciplinary collaboration...

  • Dear Varvara,
    for an idea which tools (or series of tools) could be used to start a project in co-design / co-production mode, the linked document could be a starting point:

  • For a single PhD it may be challenging to go through all steps of a TDR project, but it sure is possible to have Td "moments" of co-production with other researchers and stakeholders. Or, to continue the process after the Phd (as in the example of Susan Thieme (labour migration case) and Didier Wernli (AMR case) Also, it is possible to undertake a PhD in a...

  • Fully agree with your observations.
    For a facilitation guide for the outcome spaces:

  • I'd see the tools as complimentary, and sometimes also use allignment on one of the axes (or expertise). In my understanding the question of "alignement" is especially helpful when you already have a set of solutions or a clear normative direction; when looking for allies or when advocating for specific outcomes.

  • The question of perspectives is an important one and threads through the whole actor analysis. While step 2 helps not to forget important perspectives, step 3 helps to categorize different perspectives (and see which perspectives are represented by many or few actors), and step 4 helps to assess the feasibility and necessity to engage with specific actors; all...

  • Great to have you back!
    And I can definitively say: every week is worth the effort :)

  • The framing phase with a large set of actors with diverging interest is indeed challenging. For such projects as a first step I usually talk with exponents of the main actor groups, often as semi-structured interviews focussing on their interests, priorities and challenges and initiating a discussion on what could be important key questions for the project and...

  • @JasperWubs it's the slides: phase 1 pdf, and Christian is referring to the figure I also borrowed for step 3.1

  • Dear Sabine,
    a very important issue - in our paper "Research funding programmes aiming for societal transformations: ten key stages" we address some of these questions.
    Appropriate funding schemes for TDR explicitely including funding for interaction processes, integration experts and covering at least partially the...

  • There are many ways to asess power. It is always important which question you are asking for in the power analysis, e.g. the current power to regulate the sytem, or the power to change the system. Sometimes it makes sense to draw several power/interest grids regarding different aspects of power.

    As for power categories, for example Bourdieu's forms of...

  • For a text version on the three types of knowledge, consult our new blog post on the excellent "Integration and Implementation Insights" blog:

  • Do not hesitate to react to each others comments, there is a lot of distributed knowledge!

  • Thank you for your excellent example. Great to see a project that aims mainly for target and transformation knowlegde and uses existing systems knowledge.

  • Thank you for your highly relevant example and the clear reserach questions.

  • Thank you for your highly interesting example!
    Regarding target knowledge it seems important from my perspective to envision with people from the neighbourhood what kind of social support is desirable; and regarding transformation knowledge what contributions different groups of the neighbouhoood would be willing to contribute.

  • A warm welcome to week 3, great you are joining us for our deep dive into transdisciplinary processes!
    We are looking forward to your comments and discussions - it is a great pleasure to learn from different perspectives and to hear from your research and contexts!
    Do not hesitate to react to each others comments, there is a lot of distributed knowledge!

  • Different groups' needs are indeed a key challenge for this (and most other) TDR projects. Stay with the case and see how MontanAqua designed an elaborated interaction process to collaborate with the differnt actor groups.

  • I would refrain from the notion of neutrality, but beeing indpendent from particular interests of a specific stakeholder group and transparent about own interest; with the main aim of advancing the project and accomodating participants interests as good as feasible - caring for the participants and caring for the process ("Allparteilichkeit" in German). A good...

  • From my experience with, and research on TDR projects it seems important that there IS a dedicated person or sub-team taking care of designing, facilitating and reflecting the co-production process with the appropriate skills and a certain indepedence. This may be scientists with the relevant skills and experiences, or professional facilitators (e.g. Mistra...

  • The notion of "solutions" may indeed set the bar higher than what we realisticly can achieve. Contributing to solutions or towards change, or as you put it, taking the best-possible next step seems more appropriate. In the upcoming weeks, where we look into the phases of TDR, we use the term of jointly "exploring ways of impact".

  • Indeed, it is always important to look beyond disciplinary and sectorial boundaries.
    However, as TDR requires specific skills and considerable engagement of all involved partners, it is important to carefully gauge the degree of interaction. The paper linked in the references above looks deeper into these considerations.

  • Welcome, and no worries if you start later to this course, in any case you have eight weeks of free access to all weeks and steps of the course.
    Enjoy the exchange with learners from all over the world!

  • A warm welcome to week 2 of our course!
    The whole team of educators is looking forward to your comments and discussions as we delve into the concepts of Transdsiciplinary Research and join the cases into their contexts.

  • It's well worth to look into all cases as they all go through different ways a TDR project can take. Looking into all but focussing on two or three cases with the additional links and literature provided is a good compromise.

  • A warm welcome to all!
    Great to see you coming from an impressive diversity of backgrounds, sectors, and disciplines; with a wide range of interests and motivations, but with a shared interest in addressing societal challenges. You make this course a real transdisciplinary endeavour and we look very much forward to sharing the coming weeks with you!

  • Dear learners,
    the last week already started and we are so glad to have you following, commenting and discussing this course. Thank you so much for your commitment and energy!

    If you are running out of time to finish the course within the 8 weeks FutureLearn is granting access for free (or want to access course material later), you can access the course...

  • Tobias Buser made a comment

    Dear learners,
    it is such a pleasure to have you following, commenting and discussing this course. Thank you so much for your commitment and energy!

    If you are running out of time to finish the course within the 8 weeks FutureLearn is granting access for free (or want to access course material later), you can access the course material (except...

  • Dear Charlotte,
    Definitively a question that is appearing quite often. For me, the more important question, however, is "do we have the most promising approach to tackle the question or problem at hand?".
    Now I know, this does not make your question go away. I would call a project TD if it is oriented towards TD principles (step 2.2) and has co-production...

  • Dear Helen,
    you raise some important questions, and I completely support your point that we (as researchers, as project leaders or participants) are also positioned somewhere in the power matrix, and should be concient and reflexive about where that is.
    Also, while we only might be able to change certain power imbalances on the ground (or only in the...

  • Dear Bruna,
    You are absolutely right, that these spheres are not separetad and that, for example, sound systems knowledge is based on the knowledges of different actors. This is why I call the strict alignement of knowledge types to one sphere each as "reductionist". TDR is exactly about " working within and creating spaces at the intersection of all three...

  • Sorry, it's Reed et al. 2009 as under References, not Cash et al. - thanks for noticing

  • Dear Nicolas, thats absolutely correct, our degrees of interaction stem from empirical analysis of what kind of interaction happened in 16 projects of the Swiss Research Programme 61 on water management. While analysing the literature we stepped on Arnstein's ladder and also found intermediary versions, as the one cited (Stauffacher et al. 2008).
    We focussed...

  • Dear Markus, informing and getting information is indeed important in almost any case of research. In our mentioned article we are looking at the intensities of interaction with more detail, including informing with feedback possibility. And you'll also find project goals and context conditions where lower degrees of stakeholder interaction are sufficient.

  • Dear Roger
    Impact evaluation is very challenging, wherever it concerns complex systems. The question of attribution as well as the time needed for impacts to unfold. 1-5 years after the project does usually allow to assess and disuss at leats some of the impacts. Some larger funding programmes started to plan for evaluation activities and reserve (a very...

  • @MichaelBiggs An interesting approach, and, if you manage to attract and address stakeholder's interest, a promising one from my perspective. Quite many projects I've analysed worked this way. The more successful ones involved their "discussion group" already in the framing phase as you mentioned and had some elements of co-production (e.g. co-designing one...

  • Dear Franka, you are addressing an important question.
    In smaller projects and, with a special twist, in promotion projects, often not all types of knowledge are produced. Aiming for all types of knowledge and going completely through all three phases of TDR would be an extremely ambitous goal and usually not realistic within a PhD.
    Sometimes PhDs are part...

  • Thank you John for your comment!
    Working with target knowledge that is rooted in systems knowledge may be promising, as it takes into account path dependency, and is often easier to imagine (and can be addrssed with questions like "What should be kept as is and what needs to change"). Incremental changes can well be addressed in through this approach to...

  • Dear Ingrid, tahnk you for sharing your thoughts!

    I am not completely sure about some of your attributions.
    "What are possible solutions e.g. innovations regarding manure processing?" sounds more like combining systems- (analysing existing manure processing methods) and transformation knowledge (what would new methods look like) to me.

    If you would...

  • Dear Yaëlle, working with (adjusted) co-production methods both in meetings and in group work for students could be a starting point.
    This is also a recommendation for others "waiting" to be part of a TDR project. Getting acquainted with co-production methods is helpful for many situations.

  • Dear Mendy,
    a good strategy is to partner with other researchers and/or start with openly structured interviews or informal conversations with some potential stakeholders, to learn more about about their interests, motivations and expectations, and about who could be other relevant actors regarding the topic you plan to address.

    When working for the first...

  • Dear Claudia, its great to have you with us!
    I can see the challenges, and wondered how a retrospective actor analysis might look like.
    Interesting thoughts in a short article: How social sciences and humanities can contribute to transformative science

  • @GemmaTejedor Dear Gemma, we offer such workshops on request, also adapted to the specific interests and contexts.

  • Dear Roger, thank you for sharing (unfortunately we have not prepared a padlet to share graphs/pictures in this step).
    It is indeed a nice exercise for research teams and groups (at leats once social disctancing is eased), leading to important mutual insights into how and why team-members position themselves, how they perceive the position of others, what...

  • Dear Gemma, thank you for contributions this week and for your question.
    The first step are often openly structured interviews or informal conversations with (potential) stakeholders and research partners to find out about their interests, motivations, expectations, and potentials for collaboration.
    Once a group (or subgroup) formed, there is a wide range...

  • Dear Hester, your comment reonates well with my research and my experiences.
    Also, with mentioning the "afterwards" of a project you touch an important aspect: Carefully established relationships with stakeholders are not just ending because a project ends. Often they are leading to further collaboration (funding ending with the project end poses, however,...

  • Dear Daniela, Thank you for your contribution.
    I fully agree that listening openly and carefully to interests, expectations and motivations of stakeholders is key - and also discussing those of the scientists.

  • Dear Nicolas, thank you for mentioning an important point.
    It is indeed highly important to reconsider expectations of all involved actors in the first phase of a project and to learn about their motivations and interests.
    While we placed this step into the second phase, it is important from the beginning of the interaction to the end.

  • You can also think in these roles dynamically: what role do I take in a current project or situation, where would I like to move towards in future, where do I feel comfortable, which role would team members, supervisors, stakeholders expect you to incorporate?

  • I am taking an utilitarian approach to these different versions of potential roles with the main question: do they help to provoke reflection on own role perceptions and preferences and of those of others. I consider the roles proposed by Pielke JR. as helpful for this purpose, even leading to more interactive discussion in group settings than version 1. In...

  • @JacquesGodfroid: "defining what we want to achieving together" definitively resonates with me. It also nicely describes what will be introduced as co-producing target knowledge in week 2.
    Would also be interested in a link to your article.

  • Dear Susan,
    broaching a wide subject, reflectivity in TDR processes or in transformational learning adds a dimension of critically questioning what is happening and what is missing, both on individual and group-level.
    In complex systems, every step can have intended and unintended consequences, and initial context conditions can change. Heading towards...

  • Dear Michael,
    it very much resonates with my experience, that the "openness of mind" or also the willingness to enter into a dialogue with other knowledges is key in ID and TD teams and groups.

    While this step focusses on ID-collaboration, I think most of it it also important for TD collaborations with actors from different societal groups, as well as I...

  • Dear Francisco,
    these roles are all important and valuable ones, so there is definitively no wrong place. Sure, in certain contexts some of the roles may seem to be more socially desireable, but this excercise is also about becoming aware that there are different important roles you can take and that for every role there are completely valid reasons to...

  • Dear Delphine, these are important questions. Please stay tuned, as these questions will be tackled in the upcoming weeks

  • If you want to share your actor matrix or actor mapping, you can upload a picture and a explanatory text to the padlet we already used in week 1:

  • Dear Christian, thank you for your attentive reading.
    You found something like an easter egg with crack - or was it an easter egg with a painted crack?
    If assuming it is an easter egg with a crack: yes, the terms actor and stakeholdres is used interchangeably in point 3 and second part of point 4 - in this case sorry for the mess.
    If assuming the easter...

  • Dear Archisman, thank you for your comment.
    Co-designing at least part of the research goals with relevant societal actors is an important element where TDR is differing from other modes of research.
    The question of who is part of the "we" in your sentence "This helped shape the kind of goals that we wanted to achieve at end of the project" is key. Who...

  • Dear Vong, many thanks for research questions, they are covering sytems- and target knowledge very well

  • Dear Gemma, many thanks for your thougtful outline.
    Regarding the target knowlegde tha question could probably also more towrds "how would engeneering programms look like when directed to contribute more to public welfare".

  • Dear Abdul, thank you for your thoughts!
    Building on what the differnt members of the community see as desirable changes (target knowledge) and also valuing what has been set up in absence of official planning (local systems knowledge) seems crucial to me.
    Some great work in this field can be found here:; ...

  • Dear Axel, thank you for your feedback.
    Your project would be a good example to look at all three knowledge types, even if it is heading towards transformation knowledge.
    Regarding systems knowldge it is an good example of the integration of traditional and academic knowledge.
    I would also see it as importat to generate target knowledge with the involved...

  • Dear Marc, yes, you can look at target knowledge as "the way one wants it to be after the solving of the Problem" But the target knowledge is not solely based on the problem, but on the desired future and thus has an influence on what is seen as a problem and helps to frame which part of a system or problem needs change.
    Tools or methods are part of the...

  • Dear Anneleen, this is an important question and not easy to answer in a general way, as funding schemes, calls, and review processes vary considerably.

    In my experience, proposal reviewers want to see a coherent narrative in a proposal. This means they need to see a clear direction, a clear overarching goal or overarching research question. Some...

  • Dear Michael, thank you for raising this question, probably something to tackle in an own step in the next run of this MOOC.
    A short answer from my process-oriented perspective includes four measures:
    1) Clarify who to involve through a sound actor and context analysis (as outlined in step 3.3), with a specific focus on the low power/high interest field....

  • Dear Ignacio, an in-depth actor analysis can definitively be time-consuming, especially when delving into the relations.
    It also depends on your current knowledge of the actor system relevant for your project. A first rough and fast actor analysis may base mainly on assumptions, the more you learn about the actors and their roles and relations, the more...

  • Thank you very much for your question Frida. The balance between with what you enter the process and what can be designed and decided jointly with different actors is often challenging.

    Finding out what could be of interest for the community you aim to work with and how the overarching topic could be framed to be of interest both for the researchers and...

  • @RogerKapp It is (respectively already did). Already from the beginning it was clear that the main funder, Mistra, would "only" fund 10 years.
    Mistra Urban future had developed into a unique institutionalised programme/platform with hubs in several Eurpean and African cities, substantially advancing co-production approaches towards just and susatinable...

  • @YaëlleDällenbach TD processes definitively need sound process design and facilitation and thus add a dimension not present in disciplinary research. This also means the role of a person or group designing, facilitating and reflecting the interaction process is highly important. You can also look at this role as a new and emerging profession between research,...

  • Thank you for your comment. To find solutions, it might even be valuable to extend the scope beyond one disease.

  • Thank you.
    In her keynote at the 2015 International Transdisciplinarity Conference, our valued colleague Merritt Polk highlighted the notion of TDR as "subversive", as it challenges both existing power structures and institutional deliminations. This might explain some of the resistance.

  • Would be great to hear about your theories of change, your pathways towards impact. Please share about the ways to impact in your projects

  • The focus in TDR is more on knowledge co-production than in mediation. Both processes, however, aim to enable the involved actors to deal with a challenging situation.
    Personally, I experience my mediation background as very helpful for designing and facilitating TDR processes and interactions.
    Generally, we recommend mediation skills, when the issues at...

  • My comment was mainly directed to the "hypothetical reconstruction" and the assumptions these are based on; or to put it in another way: with what kind of narratives you fill the uncertainties, and how are these narratives linked to our current value systems and beliefs.

  • I am always thrilled by the question how value sets (e.g. about gender roles) frame, how we interprete ancient artifacts. This means from my perspective, that besides systems knowledge, also questions on norms and values are important (our own and hypothesising about the ones centuries ago).

  • Societal challenges are not restricted to social challenges. Many environmental challenges are of high relevance for society, and to tackle them, different actors, sectors and disciplines are needed.

  • Regarding the defintions: please note this article presents several definitions from different contexts and authors. Sustainability is not the ony possible overarching goal in TDR.

    This course is also a good place to reflect on the role of science and also your personal role.