Collective knowledge development: exploratory research on transdisciplinarity in science

Research funding bodies are increasingly funding transdisciplinary research, but setting up such research and carrying it out is complicated. The Young Academy is bringing together the views of stakeholders, in order to identify the obstacles involved.

The Young Academy is bringing together the views of researchers, civil-society partners, and staff of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in order to identify the obstacles involved. The project is being carried out partly in collaboration with the NWO Knowledge Platform for Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research.

In Dutch

What is transdisciplinary research?

Transdisciplinary research incorporates the knowledge and expertise of civil-society stakeholders and businesses throughout the entire research process. Part of the underlying idea is that complex scientific and social problems – such as tackling the Covid-19 crisis or restoring biodiversity – cannot be solved by approaching them from just a single discipline or perspective. An approach is required that integrates the knowhow gained within various different disciplines (within academia) and fields of practice (outside academia). Moreover, transdisciplinary research can lead to new fundamental scientific questions and insights.

Obstacles

Research funding bodies are increasingly funding transdisciplinary research. Take, for example, multi-year NWO programmes such as the Knowledge and Innovation Agreement (KIC) and the National Research Agenda (NWA) or the recently established “convergence alliance” between Erasmus University, the Erasmus Medical Centre, and Delft University of Technology (convergence.nl). But setting up and conducting transdisciplinary research is complicated, partly because many researchers and universities have not yet established routines and best practices for the necessary knowledge-sharing. As a result, the potential for knowledge development via a wider community is not being utilised to the full extent. There may also be a mismatch between what transdisciplinary research requires from researchers (and also from civil-society partners), and the current funding system.

Transdisciplinary research in the picture

The Young Academy wishes to address the following questions:

  • What motivates researchers and civil-society partners to invest time and energy in a transdisciplinary research project?
  • What roles do researchers and civil-society partners see for themselves in such research processes?
  • What infrastructure is being developed to ensure knowledge sharing and knowledge integration?
  • What obstacles and opportunities do researchers and civil-society partners encounter when setting up and carrying out transdisciplinary projects? We distinguish here between obstacles and opportunities encountered in day-to-day working practice, in cooperation during the project, and in cooperation with the funding bodies.

The Young Academy is collaborating with NWO in sending out a questionnaire. Two roundtable discussions will also be organised jointly, one with researchers and one with other civil-society organisations. The Young Academy will also conduct a number of in-depth interviews. The aim is to determine how added value, both scientific and societal, can be created.

We also intend providing recommendations – in the form of a public report and clear guidelines for researchers, NWO, and knowledge institutions – on the best way for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research to be carried out and how it can be supported. The findings from the questionnaire, interviews, and roundtable discussions will collectively form the basis for the recommendations.

Project group

  • Members of The Young Academy: Lotte Krabbenborg, Hilde Verbeek, Renske Keizer, Eddie Brummelman, Hanneke Hulst, Liza Herzog

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Postbus 19121
1000 GC Amsterdam
Telefoon: 020 551 0867
E-mail: 
dja@knaw.nl

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