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ITD2019: Transdisciplinary collaboration to meet societal challenges

News: Sep 10, 2019

Joining forces for change is the theme of this year’s International Transdisciplinary Research Conference, ITD2019. During the conference, 250 scholars and practitioners from different disciplines, sectors and professions will gather in Gothenburg to discuss how to meet the challenges of the future – together.

The conference is hosted by the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Mistra Urban Futures and td-net Network for Transdisciplinary Research on September 10-13.

Transdisciplinary (TD) research focuses specifically on co-producing and integrating knowledge and expertise from a variety of sources, including communities, research, cities and businesses. It is an approach that is driven by the need to create processes where values and transformations towards a more just and sustainable society are openly debated.

Merritt Polk, head of department at the School of Global Studies, and one of the conference’s keynote speakers, says she is expecting many new insights regarding transdisciplinary work in the coming days.

Why do we need to work together to solve today’s big challenges to our societies?

“The classic motivation for TD research is the ‘wickedness’ of many current societal problems. Contested and complex issues like climate change, sustainable urban development and migration all need a variety of actors to deal with value conflicts and a broad base of knowledge to grasp the complexity and nuances of the issue to come up with credible solutions, as well as participation from the involved actors to be able to promote buy in and legitimacy,” says Merritt Polk.

What are the main challenges for TD work?

“The challenges are many. One of the main practical challenges is that this type of research collaboration takes a lot of time. Collaborating across disciplines and professional cultures requires building up trust and is often best carried out in long-term constellations of actors. Our projects are usually short-term, for two to three years, so, the way research funding is currently organized goes against the needs of TD approaches.”

Merritt Polk will hold her keynote speech, titled Issues and challenges for theoretical development in TD research, during the conference’s second day on Wednesday September 11.

What will be your most important message?

“My keynote will focus on the characteristics of TD research that are most important for its theoretical development. These include joint leadership and control of TD projects, the integration of multiple types and sources of knowledge and the hybrid space the TD projects inhabit. I discuss the main issues these characteristics have for theoretical development in TD research. For example, we need to further our understandings of how TD is enacted and understood, that it is a living process that emerges from different constellations of participants from practice and research-based contexts, and that power issues are always present. The diversity of TD practices makes consolidation especially challenging. I end by suggesting ways that we can deal with this challenge.”

The conference will take place at the Wallenberg Conference Centre in Gothenburg. Participants come from many parts of the world and are both scholars and practitioners dealing with topics such as global governance, sustainable development, urban challenges, infrastructure, air pollution, natural resource- and climate management.

More information:

Image: pixabay.com


Originally published on: globalstudies.gu.se

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