“Interdisciplinarity is a precondition for transdisciplinarity to emerge. Interdisciplinarity integrates theories, methods, data and perspectives of different bodies of specialised knowledge for the understanding of a problem. This requires communication among academic disciplines, i.e. communities of scientists sharing common perceptions and traditions of practice. The coherence of these perspectives as well as their underlying ontological and epistemological assumptions must be tested for compatibility in order to create new interdisciplinary knowledge. Thus, interdisciplinarity already engages in boundary crossing and knowledge integration” (Gethmann et al., 2015).
Expanding on the brief definition given above, transdisciplinarity can be described as “[…] a reflexive research approach that addresses societal problems by means of interdisciplinary collaboration as well as the collaboration between researchers and extra-scientific actors; its aim is to enable mutual learning processes between science and society; integration is the main cognitive challenge of the research process” (Jahn et al., 2012, p.4). Thus, transdisciplinarity refers to a stance towards research that is problem-oriented and goes beyond the traditional confines of academia; it is characterised by openness towards the non-academic world throughout the research process. Right from the start, during problem definition, an effort is made to integrate the perspectives of social actors, above all those of practitioners who have gained expertise through their active involvement in addressing issues that frame the problem(s) under consideration.
Transdisciplinary research acknowledges the validity of different ways of gaining knowledge, and recognises the valuable contribution that practitioners’ expertise can bring to problem-oriented research. Thus, transdisciplinarity is not associated with a particular theory or theories; rather it is an approach that is open to the emergence of new theories through the interplay of science and practice, i.e. of academics and societal actors, in the problem-solving process. […] transdisciplinarity does not entail following standardised procedures; rather it represents a set of potential options that can be explored and developed in multiple ways, in accordance with circumstances and research objectives. In this process, terminology and new knowledge is developed, that can be used across disciplinary borders and subsequently integrated into disciplinary traditions. Transdisciplinarity thereby enriches the disciplinary bodies of knowledge with which it engages (Bergmann et al., 2012).” (Padmanabhan 2018. 9-10)
Padmanabhan, Martina (2018) Ch1 Transdisciplinarity for sustainability. In: Padmanabhan, Martina ed.(2018) Transdisciplinary Research and Sustainability: Collaboration, Innovation and Transformation. London: Routledge. 1-32.
Bergmann, M., Jahn, T., Knobloch, T., Krohn, W., Pohl, C., & Schramm, E. (2012). Methods for transdisciplinary research. A primer for practice . Frankfurt: Campus.
Gethmann, C. F., Carrier, M., Hanekamp, G., Kaiser, M., Kamp, G., Lingner, S., Quante, M., & Thiele, F. (2015). Interdisciplinary research and trans-disciplinary validity claims . Heidelberg:Springer.
Jahn, T., Bergmann, M., & Keil, F. (2012). Transdisciplinarity: Between mainstreaming and marginalization. Ecological Economics , 79 , 1–10.