Sustainability Science

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 205–217 | Cite as

Developing sustainable water and land management options: reflections on a transdisciplinary research process

  • Carsten MannEmail author
  • Martina Schäfer
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Concepts, Methodology, and Knowledge Management for Sustainability Science


Knowledge production for sustainable land management requires close cooperation between research and practice. Drawing on insights from the ELaN project, which has developed a set of products to foster integrated water and land management in Northeast Germany, this paper compares two specific transdisciplinary research processes, seeking to obtain a clearer picture of what influences the acceptance and up-take of generated research products beyond methodological considerations of transdisciplinary research design and stakeholder interaction. We highlight differences in intensity of transdisciplinary interaction and resulting product quality with regard to two main project outcomes: a manual for administrators and a decision-support system (DSS) for farmers. While the development of the manual was characterised by intensive exchange with practitioners, co-production of knowledge and mutual learning, the design and development of the DSS was mainly pushed by researchers with sporadic practice interaction. Beside differences in participatory design, the practical relevance of the manual increased throughout the project due to political changes on the European level, whereas socio-political demand for the DSS did not change substantially. We discuss the relevance of appropriate transdisciplinary project management versus the significance of surrounding context conditions for increasing the societal relevance of outcomes and formulate recommendations for enhancing transdisciplinary research.


Transdisciplinary research Participation Knowledge integration Meta-reflection Sustainable land management Risk assessment Decision-support system Water reuse 



We would like to acknowledge project funding by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research within its Sustainable Land Management Program (2011–2015).


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Technology and Society (ZTG)Technische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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