3rd INTREPID Report: Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research: Finding the common ground of multi-faceted concepts


Inter- and transdisciplinarity are increasingly relevant concepts and practices within academia. While various definitions exist, a clear distinction between inter- and transdisciplinarity remains difficult. Although there is a wide consensus about the need to define and apply these approaches, there is no agreement over definitions. Building on data collected during the first year of the COST Action TD1408 “Interdisciplinarity in research programming and funding cycles” (INTREPID), this paper describes both tensions and common ground about the characteristics and building blocks of interand trans-disciplinarity. Drawing on empirical data from participatory workshops involving INTREPID network members coming from 27 different countries, the paper shows that diverse definitions of inter and trans-disciplinarity coexist within scientific literature and in the mind of researchers and practitioners. The understanding about the involvement of actors outside of academia also differs widely across scientific communities irrespective of disciplinary training or the research subjects. The focus should be on the knowledge that is required to deal with a specific problem, rather than discussing “if” and “how” to integrate actors outside the academia, and
collaboration should start with joint problem framing. This diversity is, however, not an absolute obstacle to practice, since the latter is made possible through building blocks such as knowledge domains, problem- and solution- oriented approaches, common goals, as well as target knowledge. In order to move towards more effective inter- and transdisciplinary research, we identify the need for trained interdisciplinarity facilitators and ‘accompanying research’ (derived from the Danish term ‘følgeforskning’). These two roles can be essential to inter- and transdisciplinarity practices including the promotion of reflexivity.

Publication associated with Project INTREPID.