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Professionalising Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research Expertise

10th December 2020 @ 13.00-14.15 CEST (12.00-13.15 GMT+1)

SHAPE-ID has found that a clear and well-defined process is needed for inter- and transdisciplinary research projects in order to manage such innovative interactions and ensure long-lasting results. This webinar invited experts in inter- and transdisciplinary integration to consider how expertise can be fostered in academic and professional environments. What is integration expertise and why is it needed in order to develop strong collaborative research projects with diverse participants? What is the profile of the inter- or transdisciplinary scientist or researcher? What tools and methods are available to build this profile?

Presentations were followed by an interactive Q&A from the audience chaired by Professor Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College Dublin), Principal Investigator of SHAPE-ID and Chair of the Irish Research Council.

You can watch the video recording of the event on our Facebook page or listen to the podcast here:


Dr Sabine Hoffmann | Eawag – Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Is there a new profession of ‘integration experts’ on the rise?

Integration is often considered critical to the success (or failure) of inter- and transdisciplinary research. Given the importance of integration, this talk will argue that a new profession of ‘integration experts’ is on the rise. This new profession, however, is not yet fully established within the current academic system. Often, the roles, responsibilities and functions of ‘integration experts’ are poorly specified and their expertise is neither properly recognised and rewarded, nor appropriately valued and assessed. Drawing on empirical material from an international workshop, the talk will discuss the new profession and exemplify core questions and key concerns related to it.

Sabine Hoffmann is a geo-ecologist with a particular interest in inter- and transdisciplinary research in both theory and practice. Over the past twenty years she has acquired extensive experience in leading inter- and transdisciplinary projects and programmes, both nationally and internationally. In her PhD, Sabine integrated natural and social sciences to analyse urban water and wastewater management in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As Head of the strategic research program Wings (Water and sanitation innovations for non-grid solutions) and Group Leader for Transdisciplinary Research she leads and concurrently investigates integration and integrative leadership in large inter- and transdisciplinary research projects and programs.

Dr Petra Biberhofer | Participatory Science Academy, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich

How to create transformative learning spaces to foster integration expertise

The role of higher education institutions, funding agencies and others is crucial when it comes to creating “safe enough spaces” as opportunity structures for researchers to strengthen integration expertise (IE). Particularly third space initiatives at the interface of Citizen Science and capacity building, like the Participatory Science Academy, not only recognise and reward IE but also provide great potential to foster IE in academic and professional environments. Based on a competence-oriented approach, Petra will discuss didactical principles for transformative learning in these kinds of spaces. Thereby IE is understood as a complex set of professional, method, social and self competencies that individuals and collectives need for action and self-organisation for inter- and transdisciplinary research.

Until recently, Petra Biberhofer designed and coordinated educational offers at the Participatory Science Academy, UZH and ETH Zurich, to qualify researchers and citizens with knowledge and competencies for methodologically and content-related professional participatory work. At the beginning of 2019 she completed her PhD on the topic of higher education for sustainable development at WU Vienna. From 2012-2018 she worked for the RCE Vienna at WU Vienna on advancing transformative learning spaces through transdisciplinary processes. From December 2020 on, Petra will manage the #Connecting Minds funding programme of the Austrian Science Fund aiming to encourage researchers to initiate transdisciplinary research.

Dr Nikki Brand | Technische Universiteit Delft

Convergence as an opportunity for transdisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity

Following the example of MIT’s ‘The Future of Health’, I consider ‘convergence’ as a specific form of transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary learning: mission-driven and solution-oriented. For the Resilient Delta convergence-initiative at Delft University of Technology, the challenge is to motivate and integrate a wealth of disciplines ranging from the medical and engineering sciences to the social sciences. It is an opportunity to apply the state of the art in inter- and transdisciplinarity, but this is also a challenge, since no preliminary understanding of the key problems and solution-directions for delta resilience exists. Within Resilient Delta, we therefore pilot different approaches that assist scientific teams to push the moment of knowledge integration to an earlier phase in the process.

Nikki Brand is strategy advisor and researcher in cross-disciplinary learning at Delft University of Technology, where she advises the Resilient Delta convergence-initiative with Erasmus University and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. Trained as a geographer and urban planner, much of her work has focused on the flood resilience of cities in the Netherlands, Texas and Ghana. Frustrated by the fragmented nature of knowledge regarding both problem and solution, Nikki then focused on how different disciplines can effectively work together. She currently applies that knowledge in the Resilient Delta convergence-initiative.

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