In its working paper “Looking at the Future of Transdisciplinary Research”, the Centre for Science Futures explores how science and science systems should evolve to become reliable allies in driving the necessary global societal and environmental changes we so urgently need. With a call to bridge conventional boundaries, it underscores the indispensability of weaving together diverse strands of knowledge, a harmonious symphony of disciplines, to unravel the intricate complexities of our era.
The paper provides comprehensive answers to apparently simple questions: (a) What is science? (b) What is the relationship between science and action? (c) What are inter- and transdisciplinarity? (d) How do science and transdisciplinarity relate to other knowledge systems? (e) How can we improve the science–society and science-for-policy interfaces?
This paper looks at the evolutions of science that have led to the emergence of transdisciplinarity, what is meant by transdisciplinarity and what elements need to be considered for its successful application for the future of transdisciplinary research.
The paper also stands as a testament to the ISC Centre for Science Futures’ unwavering commitment to pioneering new frontiers of inquiry, propelling humanity towards innovative solutions that transcend the confines of tradition, ushering in a future forged through the fusion of minds and methodologies.
After its publication, the paper was supplemented and commented on by a series of blogs written by experts working in the field of transdisciplinary (TD) research.
In the first blog of the series (“‘Transdisciplinarity’ (A Rose) by any other name would smell just as sweet”), Dr. Paul Shrivastava, Management and Organization Professor at Pennsylvania State University, advocates for transcending the semantics and focusing on science’s power to drive change and influence action. As the global narrative pivots toward sustainability and transformation, Dr. Shrivastava emphasizes that science’s true value lies not merely in terminology, but in its potential to reshape the world for the better, fostering impactful outcomes that transcend traditional linguistic confines.
In the second blog (“Transdisciplinarity is Knowledge Democracy”), Dr. Rajesh Tandon, Founder and President of Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), focuses on context-based knowledge solutions and questions the dominance of “modern science”. Dr. Tandon calls for the need to recognize community knowledge cultures, nurture new competencies, and embrace a new “knowledge democracy”.
In the thrid blog of the expert series (“Funding and performing interdisciplinarity for Climate Action and Digital Transition”), Science Europe‘s Dr. Nicola Dotti delves into a discussion with Malin Mobjörk, from Formas, addressing climate and digitalization challenges that require scaling up experimentation and fostering urgent scientific involvement and transdisciplinary research funding.
Key concerns raised in the fourth expert blog (“Transdisciplinarity Matters”) by Dr. Roderick Lawrence, Honorary Professor at the Geneva School of Social Sciences (G3S), include cultivating transdisciplinary projects, fostering inclusivity, acknowledging participants’ positionality, and repositioning transdisciplinarity in the broader philosophical and societal landscape to enhance its impact on research, policies, and practice.
In the fifth blog of the expert series, Dr. Christian Pohl, Senior Scientist and Co-Director at the ETH Zürich’s Transdisciplinarity-Lab, highlights the established network of scholars in collaborative research, calling them “transdisciplinarians”, as they offer important tools and insights through conferences, online resources, and shared experiences.
Expanding on the community of transdisciplinarians, in the sixth blog of the series (“Making transdisciplinarity real: transformations supporting transdisciplinary research”), Dr. Hester du Plessis, Chief Research Specialist and Head of Science Engagement and Gender at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), explores the pioneering efforts of the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Through visionary foresight, essential funding, and collective buy-in, they have fostered an oasis called “Future Africa” – a campus that breathes life into TD research, nurturing a diverse network of collaborators across continents, transcending traditional academic confines.
In the final blog of the expert series (“Transdisciplinary Bridges”), Dr. Steven Hartman, Founding Executive Director of the BRIDGES Sustainability Science Coalition, emphasizes on the intricate interplay between academia, societal stakeholders, and the pressing need for collaborative knowledge co-production. As our world faces climate upheaval and unmet global commitments, the emergence of a humanities-led sustainability science coalition, outlined through international collaboration, unveils a beacon of hope.
Launched in 2023, the Centre for Science Futures operates as a think tank within the International Science Council, aiming to improve the global understanding of current trends in science and research systems, and to provide relevant options and tools for appropriate action.
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