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Transdisciplinarity

Transdisciplinarity

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Encyclopedia
Transdisciplinarity connotes a research strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. It applies to research efforts focused on problems that cross the boundaries of two or more disciplines, such as research on effective information systems for biomedical research (see bioinformatics
Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics is the application of computer science and information technology to the field of biology and medicine. Bioinformatics deals with algorithms, databases and information systems, web technologies, artificial intelligence and soft computing, information and computation theory, software...

), and can refer to concepts or methods that were originally developed by one discipline, but are now used by several others, such as ethnography, a field research method originally developed in anthropology but now widely used by other disciplines.

German Usage


In German speaking countries, it refers to integration of diverse forms of research, and includes specific methods for relating scientific knowledge in problem-solving. A 2003 conference held in Göttingen showcased the diverse meanings of multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity and made suggestions for converging them without eliminating present usages.

When the very nature of a problem is under dispute, transdisciplinarity can help determine the most relevant problems and research questions involved. A first type of question concerns the cause of the present problems and their future development (system knowledge). Another concerns which values and norms can be used to form goals of the problem-solving process (target knowledge). A third relates to how a problematic situation can be transformed and improved (transformation knowledge). Transdisciplinarity requires adequate addressing of the complexity of problems and the diversity of perceptions of them, that abstract and case-specific knowledge are linked, and that practices promote the common good.

Transdisciplinarity arises when participating experts interact in an open discussion and dialogue, giving equal weight to each perspective and relating them to each other. This is difficult because of the overwhelming amount of information involved, and because of incommensurability of specialized languages in each field of expertise. To excel under these conditions, scientists need not only in-depth knowledge and know-how of the disciplines involved, but skills in moderation, mediation, association and transfer.

Wider usage


Transdisciplinarity is also used to signify a unity of knowledge beyond disciplines.

Jean Piaget introduced this usage of the term in 1970, and in 1987, the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET) adopted the Charter of Transdisciplinarity at the 1st World Congress of Transdisciplinarity.

In the CIRET approach, transdisciplinarity is radically distinct from interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity, like pluridisciplinarity, concerns the transfer of methods from one discipline to another, allowing research to spill over disciplinary boundaries, but staying within the framework of disciplinary research.

As the prefix "trans" indicates, transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond each individual discipline. Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the overarching unity of knowledge.

Another critical defining characteristic of transdisciplinary research is the inclusion of stakeholders in defining research objectives and strategies in order to better incorporate the diffusion of learning produced by the research. Collaboration between stakeholders is deemed essential - not merely at an academic or disciplinary collaboration level, but through active collaboration with people affected by the research and community-based stakeholders. In such a way, transdisciplinary collaboration becomes uniquely capable of engaging with different ways of knowing the world, generating new knowledge, and helping stakeholders understand and incorporate the results or lessons learned by the research.

Transdisciplinarity is defined by Basarab Nicolescu
Basarab Nicolescu
Basarab Eftimie Nicolescu is a theoretical physicist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique , Laboratoire de Physique Nucléaire et de Hautes Énergies, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris...

 through three methodological postulates: the existence of levels of Reality, the logic of the included middle, and complexity. In the presence of several levels of Reality the space between disciplines and beyond disciplines is full of information. Disciplinary research concerns, at most, one and the same level of Reality ; moreover, in most cases, it only concerns fragments of one level of Reality. On the contrary, transdisciplinarity concerns the dynamics engendered by the action of several levels of Reality at once. The discovery of these dynamics necessarily passes through disciplinary knowledge. While not a new discipline or a new superdiscipline, transdisciplinarity is nourished by disciplinary research; in turn, disciplinary research is clarified by transdisciplinary knowledge in a new, fertile way. In this sense, disciplinary and transdisciplinary research are not antagonistic but complementary. As in the case of disciplinarity, transdisciplinary research is not antagonistic but complementary to multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity research.

According to Nicolescu, transdisciplinarity is nevertheless radically distinct from multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity because of its goal, the understanding of the present world, which cannot be accomplished in the framework of disciplinary research. The goal of multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity always remains within the framework of disciplinary research. If transdisciplinarity is often confused with interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity (and by the same token, we note that interdisciplinarity is often confused with multidisciplinarity) this is explained in large part by the fact that all three overflow disciplinary boundaries. Advocates maintain this confusion hides the huge potential of transdisciplinarity.

Arts and Humanities


Transdisciplinarity can be found in the arts and humanities. For example, the Planetary Collegium
Planetary Collegium
The Planetary Collegium is an international platform for research in art, technology and consciousness, with its hub based in the University of Plymouth, with linked centers in Zurich and Milan...

 seeks "the development of transdisciplinary discourse in the convergence of art, science, technology and consciousness research."

Human Sciences


The range of transdisciplinarity becomes clear when the four central questions of biological research ((1) causation
Causation
Causation may refer to:* Causation , a key component to establish liability in both criminal and civil law* Causation in English law defines the requirement for liability in negligence...

, (2) ontogeny
Ontogeny
Ontogeny is the origin and the development of an organism – for example: from the fertilized egg to mature form. It covers in essence, the study of an organism's lifespan...

,
(3) adaptation
Adaptation
An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. An adaptation refers to both the current state of being adapted and to the dynamic evolutionary process that leads to the adaptation....

, (4) phylogeny [after Niko Tinbergen 1963, see also Tinbergen's four questions
Tinbergen's four questions
Tinbergen's four questions, named after Nikolaas Tinbergen, are complementary categories of explanations for behavior. It suggests that an integrative understanding of behavior must include both a proximate and ultimate analysis of behavior, as well as an understanding of both...

, cf. Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

: Causality / Four Major Causes]) are graphed against distinct levels of analysis (e.g. cell
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

, organ
Organ (anatomy)
In biology, an organ is a collection of tissues joined in structural unit to serve a common function. Usually there is a main tissue and sporadic tissues . The main tissue is the one that is unique for the specific organ. For example, main tissue in the heart is the myocardium, while sporadic are...

, individual
Individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

, group
Group (sociology)
In the social sciences a social group can be defined as two or more humans who interact with one another, share similar characteristics and collectively have a sense of unity...

; [cf. "Laws about the Levels of Complexity" of Nicolai Hartmann
Nicolai Hartmann
-Biography:Hartmann was born of German descent in Riga, which was then the capital of the Russian province of Livonia, and which is now in Latvia. He studied Medicine at the University of Tartu , then Philosophy in St. Petersburg and at the University of Marburg in Germany, where he took his Ph.D....

 1940/1964, see also Rupert Riedl
Rupert Riedl
Rupert Riedl was an Austrian zoologist who made contributions in the fields of:* Marine biology* Morphology* Theory of evolution * Evolutionary Epistemology* Environment and society...

 1984]):
Causation Ontogeny Adaptation Phylogeny
Molecule
Cell
Organ
Individual
Group
Society


In this “scheme of transdisciplinarity”, all anthropological disciplines (paragraph C in the table of the pdf-file below), their questions (paragraph A: see pdf-file) and results (paragraph B: see pdf-file) can be intertwined and allocated with each other [for examples how these aspects go into those little boxes in the matrix, see e.g. the table ] This chart includes all realms of anthropological research (no one is excluded). It is the starting point for a systematical order for all human sciences, and also a source for a consistent networking and structuring of their results. This “bio-psycho-social” orientation framework is the basis for the development of the "Fundamental Theory of Human Sciences" and for a transdisciplinary consensus. (In this tabulated orientation matrix the questions and reference levels in italics are also the subject of the humanities.)

See also

  • Disciplinary
    Disciplinary
    Disciplinary is a term used to describe types of knowledge, expertise, skills, people, projects, communities, problems, challenges, studies, inquiry, approaches, and research areas that are strongly associated with academic areas of study or areas of professional practice...

  • Interdisciplinarity
    Interdisciplinarity
    Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic fields into one single discipline. An interdisciplinary field crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions have emerged....

  • Multidisciplinarity
    Multidisciplinarity
    Multidisciplinarity is a non-integrative mixture of disciplines in that each discipline retains its methodologies and assumptions without change or development from other disciplines within the multidisciplinary relationship....

  • Transdisciplinary Studies
    Transdisciplinary studies
    Transdisciplinary Studies are an area of research and education that addresses contemporary issues that cannot be solved by one or even a few points-of-view...

  • Science of Team Science
    Science of Team Science
    The science of team science field encompasses both conceptual and methodological strategies aimed at understanding and enhancing the processes and outcomes of collaborative, team-based research. It is useful to distinguish between team science initiatives and the science of team science field...


Notations


External links