Science with society: Challenges of early-stage researchers engaging with transdisciplinary research in sustainability science

Kaustubh Thapa*, Walter J.V. Vermeulen, Pauline Deutz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The ongoing social and ecological crises create urgency in academia and elsewhere to devise actionable problem-solving knowledge to tackle sustainability challenges. Transdisciplinary research (TDR) represents a problem-solving methodology for sustainability problems. TDR requires researchers to get out in the real world and engage with other societal actors to jointly produce such problem-solving knowledge for research to have a societal impact. This radical process of doing “science with society” instead of “science for society” is becoming more urgent and relevant. However, a transdisciplinary (TD) researcher faces challenges: often, institutions have limited readiness for facilitating TDR, a researcher has to juggle the roles of an academic and changemaker simultaneously and needs new ways of doing science. The research process requires enough manoeuvring space to incorporate reflexivity, adaptiveness, and emergence based on the research context. The research uses case studies, interviews, reflections, and document analysis from two finished and one ongoing TDR PhDs in sustainability science and connects them with the TD literature. Based on previous and ongoing TDR by early-stage researchers (ESRs), this article identifies and discusses six TDR challenges ESRs in sustainability sciences might face.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1562-1572
Number of pages11
JournalSustainable Development
Volume30
Issue number6
Early online dateApr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • early-stage researcher
  • higher education
  • sustainability science
  • transdisciplinary PhD
  • transdisciplinary research

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