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Academics for sustainable development: Exploring consequences and dilemmas of transdisciplinary research approaches


Engaging in transdisciplinary (TD) research should include acknowledging that researchers can and should take into account power dynamics between the actors in the TD collaboration. An ethical and political stance is demanded if the TD researchers are to reach a contribution to societal sustainability challenges. In order to do so, TD researchers need a set of skills: for example, communicating and negotiating with actors, in addition to balancing interdisciplinary tensions and the tensions between knowledge production and intervention development.It is thus important to critically explore these roles when executing the diversity of TD research and to effectively navigate trade-offs when co-producing solutions for sustainability. The articles in this special issue present reflections on methodological issues present in a wide variety of TD research projects, including the dilemmas and consequences of having to deal with multiple knowledge systems and ther ole of the TD researcher. The debate on methodological issues linked to the role of the researcher is usually not made explicit in the academic literature, and therefore we contribute to this gap in the TD debate. Such insights will aid scholars in both positioning research findings in the scientific debate and in the education of researchers for TD. In order for the field of TD research to further evolve, we call for increased and renewed attention to the general need for reflexivity, and for articulating explicitly the identified and experienced challenges with TD research. As such, we encourage colleagues to engage in the synthesized and systematic treatment of lessons learned when conducting the research, which can contribute to the philosophical and theoretical advancement of existing TD frameworks.


Academic article





  • Radboud University
  • The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • SINTEF Manufacturing
  • Xavier Pontifical University, Santafé de Bogotá



Published in

Sustainable Development




John Wiley & Sons



View this publication at Cristin