Article

AMBIO

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 254-265

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Solving Problems in Social–Ecological Systems: Definition, Practice and Barriers of Transdisciplinary Research

  • Per AngelstamAffiliated withFaculty of Forest Sciences, School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Email author 
  • , Kjell AnderssonAffiliated withFaculty of Forest Sciences, School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • , Matilda AnnerstedtAffiliated withDepartment of Work Science, Business Economics & Environmental Psychology, Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • , Robert AxelssonAffiliated withFaculty of Forest Sciences, School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • , Marine ElbakidzeAffiliated withFaculty of Forest Sciences, School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • , Pablo GarridoAffiliated withFaculty of Forest Sciences, School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • , Patrik GrahnAffiliated withDepartment of Work Science, Business Economics & Environmental Psychology, Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • , K. Ingemar JönssonAffiliated withSchool of Education and Environment, Kristianstad University
  • , Simen PedersenAffiliated withDepartment of Forestry and Wildlife Management, Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences, Hedmark University College
    • , Peter SchlyterAffiliated withEnvironmental and Resource, Dynamics Group, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University
    • , Erik SkärbäckAffiliated withDepartment of Work Science, Business Economics & Environmental Psychology, Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
    • , Mike SmithAffiliated withForest Research, Northern Research Station, Centre for Human and Ecological Sciences
    • , Ingrid StjernquistAffiliated withEnvironmental and Resource, Dynamics Group, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University

Abstract

Translating policies about sustainable development as a social process and sustainability outcomes into the real world of social–ecological systems involves several challenges. Hence, research policies advocate improved innovative problem-solving capacity. One approach is transdisciplinary research that integrates research disciplines, as well as researchers and practitioners. Drawing upon 14 experiences of problem-solving, we used group modeling to map perceived barriers and bridges for researchers’ and practitioners’ joint knowledge production and learning towards transdisciplinary research. The analysis indicated that the transdisciplinary research process is influenced by (1) the amount of traditional disciplinary formal and informal control, (2) adaptation of project applications to fill the transdisciplinary research agenda, (3) stakeholder participation, and (4) functional team building/development based on self-reflection and experienced leadership. Focusing on implementation of green infrastructure policy as a common denominator for the delivery of ecosystem services and human well-being, we discuss how to diagnose social–ecological systems, and use knowledge production and collaborative learning as treatments.

Keywords

Research policy Sustainable development Sustainability Knowledge production Learning Green infrastructure