Higher Education

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 511–524 | Cite as

Growing into what? The (un-)disciplined socialisation of early stage researchers in transdisciplinary research

  • Ulrike Felt
  • Judith Igelsböck
  • Andrea Schikowitz
  • Thomas Völker


Over past decades we have witnessed considerable debate questioning the capacity of contemporary research to address the challenges posed by complex societal developments. As a consequence the need for rethinking cultures and practices of knowledge production has moved high on the policy agenda. In this context transdisciplinarity has become one of the key-notions standing for more openness towards and engagement with non-scientific actors all along the process of knowledge production. While there is much debate, little is known about the every-day research practices in such contexts. This paper focuses on early stage researchers and how they manage to reconcile the demands of transdisciplinarity with other normative requirements in contemporary research. Using the concept of ‘epistemic living spaces’, which addresses how researchers see their room for epistemic and social manoeuvre within research, the paper explores the possibilities and limits of contemporary research structures to accommodate this alternative way of producing knowledge. Introducing the concept of ‘transdisciplinary knowledge regime’, the article finally argues that this kind of knowledge production cannot be understood through solely focusing on the specific epistemological and normative prescriptions, but demands close consideration of the complex entanglements between the epistemic, the institutional, the social and the ideological perspectives in contemporary research. All this also raises new issues of responsibility towards early stage researchers.


Transdisciplinarity Doctoral education Research socialisation Epistemic living spaces Research governance Knowledge regime 



The authors would like to thank the editors and the anonymous referees for their valuable comments on the draft of this article, as well as Elizabeth Rosenbaum for her help with final language issues. Our gratitude also goes to those researchers who were so generous as to give us their time, engage with our questions and share their experiences and concerns about their research work with us. This research has been made possible by a grant from the Federal Ministry for Science and Research under the programme proVISION. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the conference “Risky entanglements? Contemporary research cultures imagined and practised”, Vienna 9–11 June 2010.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrike Felt
    • 1
  • Judith Igelsböck
    • 1
  • Andrea Schikowitz
    • 1
  • Thomas Völker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Studies of ScienceUniversitätsstraße 7 (NIG)ViennaAustria

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