Contemporary societal issues, such as those related to health care or sustainable development, are often very complex. They can be rooted in deep organizational, political and social issues that involve many different actors, all with their own perspectives. For this reason, contemporary societal problems are often called “wicked” or “persistent” problems. This implies that multiple approaches, fields of science and frames of reference are integrated to build specific, practical, experiential and scientific knowledge about the problem in conjunction with those directly confronted by the problem.
Transdisciplinary research is distinct from mono-, multi- and interdisciplinary research in that it integrates knowledge from different scientific actors with the experiential knowledge of societal actors (e.g. patients, health professionals, NGOs, government, industry, and international organizations), jointly involving scientists and societal actors in defining problems and identifying and implementing interventions through mutual learning and co-creation.
This new approach to research comes with certain challenges – namely, transdisciplinary researchers must integrate various different knowledge cultures, incorporate actors needs and feedback, all while ensuring a safe and open venue for mutual learning and co-creation.
In this course, you will learn key skills and have the opportunity to put them into practice within the design and implementation of inter- and transdisciplinary research. You will acquire a grounded understanding of epistemological cultures and how knowledge value systems can challenge mutual learning. You will be working with other PhD candidates in a case study format to redesign a mono- or multidisciplinary research project and transform it into an inter- or transdisciplinary research project. This will give you practical exposure to stakeholder analysis, critical stakeholder feedback, and stakeholder communication skills. In addition, you will also develop your own “external brain” by delving deeper into four learning questions about inter- and transdisciplinary research that are relevant to your own PhD.
The aim of this course is to support PhD candidates wishing to adopt an inter- or transdisciplinary research approach during their PhD project aimed at increasing the societal relevance of their research.
A growing number of academic fields are recognizing the importance of defining complex societal problems through the eyes of all the actors involved. An interdisciplinary research approach that aims for integrated knowledge generation is essential for tackling the multifaceted, persistent and wicked problems we currently face. Moreover, the increased focus on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) means that PhD students are frequently required to conduct inter- or transdisciplinary research. And though some candidates will be familiar with the approach, most will not possess the skills needed to design and implement it. A graduate winter school is an ideal setting for delving into this new research approach and its underlying theoretical groundings. The variety of backgrounds of individuals taking part in the course will in itself be instrumental in the learning process.
This is a two-week course which has three parts. The first involves preparatory reading before the actual start. Part two, includes interactive lectures, workshops and group work on a case study. And the third part comprises several (part-time) weeks of distance learning – studying the literature and consolidating what has been learned and reflecting on personalized learning questions relevant to individual candidates’ research proposal.
The course is organized by the Athena Institute