Potentials and methods for impactful transdisciplinary research

Transdisciplinary research aims to solve complex societal problems and advance scientific knowledge production. The potential for such impacts has to be systematically built during the research process. This platform presents a continously evolving knowledge base for this puropose.

The knowledge base is structured according to four core topics: joint problem description and project planning, participation of societal actors, knowledge integration, and generalization of findings. For each of these topics the most important opportunities for action are shown and methods are suggested that help transdisciplinary researchers to increase the impact potential of their research projects.


Main topics

Joint problem description: The description of the everyday life problems to be addressed already strongly influences the potential for efficacy offered by transdisciplinary research. Which conditions have to be considered and which possibilities for action exist that foster potentials for efficacy already during the phase of problem description and project planning?

Participation: The participation of actors from economy, civil society, and politics offers the possibility to comprehend the investigated problem in its full scope and complexity. Moreover, participation is a key factor for societally relevant transdisciplinary research and a successful implementation of its findings.

Knowledge integration: In order to solve complex societal problems, the knowledge of various scientific disciplines has to be brought together and linked with knowledge and experiences from everyday life. How can this be achieved in a way that findings from research can be effective?

Generalization: Transdisciplinary research can be particularly effective if it gains findings that are relevant beyond the individual investigated case. How can this transferability be anchored within the research process?



The knowledge base results from an offline and online dialogue between experts from science, society, and research funding agencies, which will last until the end of 2018. If you like to shape its contents or use it for your research projects, you can register for the community (the dialogue is conducted in German but English contributions are welcome).



The platform "td Academy" is currently being developed within the project TransImpact. TransImpact investigates with which processes and methods transdisciplinary research can achieve the desired societal and scientific effects.

Picking up and precisely describing societal problems, the participation of stakeholders, the integration of heterogeneous forms of knowledge and the generalization of findings from case-studies are four central traits of transdisciplinary research.

Within TransImpact, the exchange between scientists, stakeholders and funding institutions is focusing on these four topics. With that in mind, we evaluate for each topic in a workshop completed projects together with their respective research teams. In other words, we analyze together with project actors from science and practice, how the effects of projects are influenced by the methods used. To our understanding, effects comprise societal as well as scientific effects of a transdisciplinary project which are based on the research process and the obtained findings.

The chosen procedures and results obtained (for instance guidelines, the development of instruments, prototypes, test implementations etc.) can have different intended and unintended effects. They can initiate permanent changes in the field of action and beyond or promote a scientific discourse. Connected there to are usually also institutional or personal learning effects (joint learning, capacity development and the like). Other contextual conditions – that are hardly controllable during the development, planning and execution of transdisciplinary research projects – either promote or prevent these effects.

After the project workshop, specific findings and experiences from the evaluated projects will be generalized from their initial context. Key points will be identified that offer possibilities for action in transdisciplinary research processes, in order to increase the impact potential of transdisciplinary research. To make use of these possibilities, methods from the evaluated projects and from literature are presented. Those abstracted findings will be put up for discussion in an extended circle of experts in another workshop, the validation platforms.

Through the intensive exchange between transdisciplinary researchers, the scientific community shall be strengthened and the creation of networks shall be supported. With this internet platform, the exchange shall also obtain a virtual forum. Here, findings and experiences will be put up for discussion so that they can be further developed in an interactive way.

The project „Effective transdisciplinary research, analysis and transfer of standards for transdisciplinary research (TransImpact). Pre-study for a Virtual Academy for Transdisciplinarity Studies” is funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the funding scheme Social-Ecological Research.