Transdisciplinary research: Documentation for the ISOE Summer School “Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations” online

Transdisciplinary research is a rather new challenge for scientists. Sustainability research in particular aims to bring together scientific and non-scientific knowledge. However, the methodological foundations of transdisciplinary research are still rarely dealt with at university teaching. With the international Summer School “Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations”, doctoral students of the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research have developed a format that offers young academics from very different disciplines the opportunity to deal with the concepts, methods and the design options of transdisciplinary research. The documentation and recordings of the Summer School from 29 July to 3 August 2018 are now available online.

Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the Summer School offered a total of 30 scholars from Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, India, Colombia, Morocco, Mexico, Austria, Rwanda, Switzerland and Germany the opportunity to meet leading international researchers in transdisciplinarity in Bad Homburg and Frankfurt/Main. The lecturers offered their expertise for exchange, theoretical input and practical training on methods for transdisciplinary research. Topics included efficient knowledge integration and dissemination as well as transdisciplinary project management, including the NiddaMan research project.

The aim of the Summer School was to show how the transdisciplinary approach crosses disciplinary boundaries and at the same time incorporates the knowledge of social actors into the research process. This approach is particularly suitable for sustainability research, which seeks practicable solutions to social-ecological problems such as loss of biodiversity, overuse of groundwater reserves or the effects of climate change. These global challenges have in common that they are related to the way societies change their natural environment. This has complex consequences in social, ecological and economic spheres.

Transdisciplinary research: A new approach to knowledge production

For sustainable solutions, new approaches and forms of knowledge production are needed that do not only take scientific considerations into account. Instead, they also account for the knowledge and attitudes of the social actors involved in order to produce practice-oriented knowledge. Here, the transdisciplinary approach is considered successful because it regards research as a common learning process involving natural and social scientists as well as partners from society, politics and business. ISOE has many years of expertise in work on transdisciplinary methods – in the research unit “Transdisciplinary Methods and Concepts” it develops quality standards for successful transdisciplinary work and investigates how the intended social impact of transdisciplinary research processes can be guaranteed.

In the course of the Summer School “Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations”, ISOE provided this expertise to participants from disciplines as diverse as urban planning and architecture, politics, economics and law, as well as environmental sciences, biology, chemistry, ecotoxicology, geography and engineering. The conceptual framework of the Summer School, the program and the content were extensively documented and accompanied by video productions. The videos are linked in the English documentation or can be downloaded here directly. A clip about the Summer School 2018 has also been produced, which can be viewed here.

Documentation as PDF with links to lectures and workshops  

Direct link to the videos (AV-Portal of the Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology – TIB Hannover): 

Link to the clip “Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations”