Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainable outcomes: introduction

Palmer, Jane and Riedy, Chris and Fam, Dena and Mitchell, Cynthia (2017) Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainable outcomes: introduction. In: Transdisciplinary research and practice for sustainability outcomes. Routledge Studies in Sustainability. Taylor & Francis (Routledge), Oxford, UK, pp. 1-6. ISBN 9781138119703


Why has transdisciplinarity, in its various forms, emerged as a different way of doing research? What makes it relevant, and arguably essential, for research and associated practice that contributes to social, economic and environmental sustainability? Alongside these questions is another that is even more fundamental: What motivates an engagement with the world that crosses traditional academic and professional boundaries? Such engagement is certainly not easy to achieve. It can be complex to imagine, difficult to practice, intellectually and emotionally testing, and often risky. Yet many researchers are turning to a transdisciplinary research practice because of its potential to deliver transformative and groundbreaking responses to the sustainability challenges of our time.

The idea for this book arose as a result of the editors’ experience of working in an organisation that has been built upon a motivation for transdisciplinary engagement: the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney. It is an organisation whose mission is to create change towards sustainable futures. In pursuing this mission, the Institute has not only permitted, but supported and conceptually advanced, transdisciplinary research and practice. Researchers and practitioners at the Institute realized early in the life of the organisation that creating change that made a real difference to local and global sustainability required more than cross-disciplinary collaboration. It required a willingness on the part of each team member to challenge their own worldview and intellectual assumptions, in order to see the potential contribution of others to resolving complex issues. This in turn required systems that: supported experimentation; used training and shared learning to foster an open and reflexive way of working; and gave researchers and practitioners the skills and materials with which to convince others that a transdisciplinary approach would lead to better outcomes. It also required new conceptualisations of collaborator and stakeholder relationships. Within the Institute, understandings of transdisciplinarity vary and continue to evolve. The development of systems that support transdisciplinary work is ongoing, as new projects and new team members bring with them different challenges and ways of thinking.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Access to Submitted version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2016 05:49
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2018 01:12
Uncontrolled Keywords: transdisciplinarity; research methods; higher degree supervision; international development studies; research outcomes
Fields of Research (2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169999 Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2001 Communication and Media Studies > 200103 International and Development Communication
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130303 Education Assessment and Evaluation
Fields of Research (2020): 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4499 Other human society > 449999 Other human society not elsewhere classified
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4701 Communication and media studies > 470104 International and development communication
39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390402 Education assessment and evaluation
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
D Environment > 96 Environment > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960609 Sustainability Indicators
C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930201 Pedagogy
C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939902 Education and Training Theory and Methodology

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