What’s Actually New About Transdisciplinarity? How Scholars from Applied Studies Can Benefit from Cross-disciplinary Learning Processes on Transdisciplinarity

  • Marianne PenkerEmail author
  • Andreas Muhar


The complexity of current problems of society, the high level of uncertainty and the high decision stakes involved call for a new form of transdisciplinary knowledge production that integrates society in research processes (Klein et al., Transdisciplinarity: Joint problem solving among science, technology, and society. An effective way for managing complexity, 2001; Hirsch Hadorn et al., Handbook of transdisciplinary research, 2008; Bammer, Ecol Soc, 10, 2005; Gibbons et al., The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies, 1994; Funtowicz and Ravetz, Futures 25: 739–755, 1993). Didn’t transdisciplinarity actually exist before this discourse, but under different names? Has transdisciplinarity even worked best in traditional applied fields of science that have just not been labelled before as being transdisciplinary, such as agricultural sciences, development studies, medicine or planning? In these fields, cross-disciplinary knowledge integration and participatory research have had a clear instrumental value long before the current discourse on transdisciplinarity. Therefore, scholars from such disciplines might challenge the innovativeness and newness of transdisciplinary research and question its benefit. This chapter looks into the merits of researching and teaching transdisciplinarity on top of doing it. International and cross-disciplinary exchange can address crucial questions of group size and group compositions, adequate funding conditions and methods that help to deal with powerful interest groups and thus contribute to high quality, legitimate and societal effective outcomes of transdisciplinary research processes. By publishing and teaching on transdisciplinarity, we make specific concepts and approaches accessible to the critique of others. Thus we can benefit from the academic principle of scepticism that is a key for quality management and effective innovation processes.


Applied sciences Transdisciplinary research Quality Legitimacy Societal effectiveness 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Natural Resources and Life SciencesViennaAustria

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