How this course works

Transdisciplinary research (TDR) is in itself a complex endeavour. However, theory and methodology are best illustrated with examples. Our course therefore uses cases to this end.

The course presents TDR as a living experience. With a sound theoretical and methodological background, five outstanding projects illustrate promising and different ways of dealing with complex societal challenges. The projects address:

  • labour migration,
  • healthcare situation of pastoralists in remote areas,
  • water scarcity in the Alps,
  • global governance in relation to antimicrobial resistance
  • coping with decline in a mountain village.

Starting from these challenges, the course will take learners on a journey through the main phases and steps of TDR projects. Some of the important questions along the trajectory are:

  1. How are the project and its goals framed?
  2. What actors are important, and which should be involved?
  3. What types of knowledge are important?
  4. How can scientists from different disciplines and societal actors interact to co-produce relevant knowledge?
  5. What are the ethical considerations that arise regarding research partnerships?
  6. In what ways do such projects have societal and scientific impact?
  7. What are potential challenges and pitfalls?
  8. What could knowledge co-production mean for you, your work, your career?

Each chapter starts with theoretical and methodological aspects, followed by the five cases.

Going through the chapters

In Chapter 1, we highlight the question of societal challenges. What are promising approaches to address them – and why? We discuss this briefly and introduce each case. In Chapter 2, you become acquainted with TDR and its core principles. You will explore the case contexts and backgrounds.

From Chapter 3 to Chapter 5, you will move through the main phases of TDR. You will delve into the theoretical background and the methods. We will present you with exercises that might be relevant for your own research. Jointly, we experience how the cases evolve from defining problems and goals, through their knowledge co-production process to how they explore ways to impact. What are their specific challenges – and how can one overcome them? We will invite you to reflect on these questions and to find possible answers to them.

In Chapter 6, you will not only investigate how to evaluate the approach and impact of each case, but the course educators also talk about their career paths in TDR. You are invited to discuss how this specific form of research might shape your own future and how it has changed your approach to societal challenges.

Adapting your workload

As you will see, the fact that we present you with five cases allows you to adjust the time and depth of your engagement in this course. Every case addresses a different societal challenge, engages with different actors, works on different geographical scales, and has a specific process. This means there is a lot to learn from each case, enabling a deeper understanding of the scope and plurality of transdisciplinary approaches.

You will definitely benefit if you follow all five cases through the whole course. However, if your schedule does not allow this, you may also choose two cases in which you are most interested and follow only those through Chapters 2 to 6.

Your educators and a note on mentoring

An impressive number of experts and institutions are involved in this course. For detailed information, see the list of authors on the homepage of this course and the Network for Transdisciplinary Research website.

td-net offers a range of support options and on request can also organise consultation meetings with the authors. The td-net virtual whiteboard is regularly maintained; alternatively, you can write an email to (please use the subject line “tdMOOC”).

Author: Tobias Buser