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Methods of transdisciplinary research

In the face of urgent and complex challenges (Grand Challenges) it is apparent that we need to develop better tools for knowledge generation to effectively tackle societal problems. The relationship between society and science is increasingly becoming the focus of debates in scientific theory and research practice.

In order to address complex challenges such as climate change and the societal transformation towards sustainability, we need knowledge that facilitates targeted and effective action in practice. We need to understand the problem situations in different fields of action (system knowledge), describe what desirable changes in these fields might look like (target knowledge), and develop knowledge about which strategies can be used to initiate and strengthen the desired changes (transformation knowledge).

It has become increasingly clear in recent decades that traditional disciplinary forms of knowledge generation do not meet these requirements. Individual fields of study cannot provide comprehensive answers to ever more complex real-world problems. Interdisciplinary efforts also reach their limits in problems where the stakes are high for different stakeholders, which raise ethical questions, and which are characterized by systemic uncertainties.

Since the early 1990s, new approaches to knowledge generation that aim to contribute to solving complex societal problems have emerged. "Science for the postnormal age" (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1994) or Mode2-Science (Gibbons et. al, 1994) are two of the most prominent examples. A concept widely used in the German-speaking scientific community is transdisciplinarity, which has been systematically developed and practiced in a growing community since the turn of the millennium. The core of transdisciplinarity is the reciprocal learning between science and society about socially relevant problems as well as the integration of different forms of knowledge. Non-scientific actors such as companies, NGOs, and governmental institutions collaborate with interdisciplinary teams of scientists in co-creative processes to develop implementable solutions. The theoretical foundations of transdisciplinarity were consolidated over the past two decades; methods and quality characteristics were developed. The transdisciplinary community is increasingly addressing the question of how this research approach can affect sustainable societal changes and how these can be demonstrated and traced in an analytically differentiated manner.

The cross-sectional area Methods of Transdisciplinary Research explores the theoretical foundations of effective transdisciplinary research and tests methods of impact orientation and formative, process-oriented evaluation as part of larger collaborative projects (e.g. InnoStrat, BioVal). The mostly transdisciplinary projects of the ZTG benefit from this methodological competence.

The ZTG is integrated into the relevant national and international networks and discourse platforms in this field of study through superordinate projects that conduct empirical research on the procedures of transdisciplinary projects (e.g. TransImpact, tdAcademy with the tdAcademy-Plattform). In addition, there is a close exchange with the the Science and Society Office at the Executive Board of Technische Universität Berlin.

The department provides the following services, which are available to researchers of the Technische Universität Berlin and the Berlin University Alliance. External inquiries are welcome.

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