The pathway towards a democratic and practical science goes beyond the circle of experts. TA is transdisciplinary research, which means that it investigates problems that concern us all, involves different groups in the investigations and does not restrict itself to a single discipline.

Transdisciplinarity is today one of the established terms in the science policy. But what lies behind this term? There is no standard or generally convincing definition, since the interpretation of transdisciplinarity depends on the theoretical perspective.

In practice, at least three different points of view can be distinguished, which can be combined to deal with the specific problem: Research is not merely interdisciplinary, but rather takes place across disciplines, involving non-scientists in the research process and starting from problems related to the everyday.

Projects with the groups affected

In science and technology studies, as well as in sustainability research, a view of transdisciplinarity has prevailed that treats it as being the same as participatory.This research not only crosses disciplines but also crosses sciences. This means that the involvement of groups and persons affected from outside science is intended to increase the relevance and acceptance of scientific knowledge. The aim is to provide not only solid facts but also socially robust knowledge. Transdisciplinary research means research with an eye on applications and in the form of concrete projects.

Transdisciplinarity as a problem solver

Today, thanks to its specialisation and fragmentation into the smallest fields of investigation, science is threatening to become irrelevant for the solution of urgent social problems. By including non-scientific knowledge and problems related to the everyday in the research process, the research results are expected to become closer to reality. At the same time, this form of cooperation is intended to help increase the right of those involved to have their say and to make the borders between science and society more permeable.

Technology assessment is transdisciplinary

Interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are today, particularly in fields such as technology assessment, sustainability or security research, part of everyday activity in research. Interdisciplinary projects supplement the normal science business. Admittedly, transdisciplinarity today is often regarded as the antonym of disciplinarity. However, if we regard transdisciplinary research as a variant of scientific research, it remains reliant on those scientific quality assurance standards that are provided by the individual disciplines.

The ITA addresses the topic of transdisciplinarity on two levels: We seek cooperation with stakeholders and persons affected. These research cooperation activities constitute a supplement to those forms of dialogic technology assessment that run under the name Participatory TA. Furthermore, we address the trend towards transdisciplinarity analytically and systematically, and participate in the international debate on this topic.


td-net – Network for Transdisciplinary Research

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