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Frameworks for Transdisciplinary Research

This new follow-on column will focus on frameworks for transdisciplinary research, featuring ways of systematically approaching transdisciplinary research.

Framework #6: Context in the Interaction between Research and Government Policy

This framework can inform transdisciplinary research on how best to influence change in government policy. The framework:

  • strategically identifies potential areas of change for different types of interventions,
  • focuses specifically at the institutional level, and
  • embraces the importance of politics in achieving change.

Drawing on extensive academic literature, as well as interviews with more than 50 policy makers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the framework illustrated in figure 1 uses a systemic approach and embraces the complexity of the policy-making process, rather than using linear recipes.

Six main dimensions allow users to identify entry points to make strategic decisions about knowledge use at governmental institutions.

You can download the Framework #6 here (pdf file).

Framework #5: Knowledge Co-Production – An Analytical Framework

This framework addresses the question: Who can contribute what kind of knowledge in which phase of a transdisciplinary project and why? It can be implemented ex-ante to design future projects and ex-post, as originally developed by Enengel and colleagues (2012), for analysis of knowledge co-production in transdisciplinary research processes.

Four main elements form the core of the framework; the internal differentiation within each element will depend on the organisational and thematic context of an individual research project.

You can download the Framework #5 here (pdf file).

Framework #4: Four Building Blocks of Systems Thinking

Transdisciplinary research generally treats problems as systems, but has few ways of making that systems approach explicit. Derek and Laura Cabrera at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, describe four building blocks of systems thinking, along with ways in which these building blocks can be effectively combined.

You can download the Framework #4 here (pdf file).

Framework #3: Outcome Spaces - Designing for Impact in Transdisciplinary Research

Starting with a richly articulated picture of where we would like to be at some defined point in the future has powerful consequences for any human endeavour, and especially for transdisciplinary research. Over the last two decades at the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, we devised, then used and evolved, a simple framework - the Outcome Spaces Framework - to guide the conception, design, implementation, and evaluation of our transdisciplinary research.

You can download the Framework #3 here (pdf file).

FRAMEWORK #2: A Model for the Transdisciplinary Research Process

This model aims to guide researchers through the challenging tasks of problem constitution, knowledge integration, and the participation of societal actors. It was developed at the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) in 2004 and subsequently refined.

The model (see figure 1) builds upon a basic proposition: Developing solutions for complex societal problems requires linking these problems to gaps in the existing bodies of knowledge, that is, to scientific problems. This proposition allows one to conceptualize the contributions of research to societal (left hand side) and scientific (right hand side) progress as the two epistemic ends of a single integrative process. This process consists of three tasks (problem constitution, knowledge integration, and the participation of societal actors) spread across three consecutive phases (A to C).

You can download the Framework #2 here (pdf file).

Framework #1: Principles for Designing Transdisciplinary Research

This framework consists of a set of principles from the td-net (Network for Transdisciplinary Research) of Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. A series of case studies in the Handbook of Transdisciplinary Research (Hirsch Hadorn et al. 2008) shows how these principles can be implemented. The principles are general guidelines for addressing key challenges of transdisciplinary research. The aim is to help transdisciplinary researchers plan and implement their investigations.

The principles are structured along the three phases of transdisciplinary research:

1. problem identification and structuring;
2. problem analysis;
3. "Bringing results to fruition", in other words, implementing research in practice-oriented solutions for the common good.

You can download the Framework #1 here (pdf file).

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