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Transdisciplinary co-production: Designing and testing a transdisciplinary research framework for societal problem solving

Journal article
Authors Merritt Polk
Published in Futures
Volume 65
Pages 110-122
ISSN 0016-3287
Publication year 2015
Published at Mistra Urban Futures
Pages 110-122
Language en
Keywords Transdisciplinary, Co-production, Participation, Sustainability science
Subject categories Educational Sciences


Transdisciplinary research is often promoted as a mode of knowledge production that is effective in addressing and solving current sustainability challenges. This effectiveness stems from its closeness to practice-based/situated expertise and real-life problem contexts. This article presents and tests one approach within transdisciplinary research, which specifically focuses on increasing the participation of actors from outside of academic in knowledge production processes, called transdisciplinary (TD) co-production. The framework for TO co-production focused on five focal areas (inclusion, collaboration, integration, usability, and reflexivity) in three research phases (Formulate, Generate, Evaluate). This paper tests and evaluates the use of this framework in five research projects. The results discuss how the focal areas and research phases dealt with many crucial issues in transdisciplinary knowledge production. They stimulated a high level of stakeholder participation and commitment to the research processes, and promoted knowledge integration and reflexive learning across diverse sectors and disciplines. The approach, however, came up against a number of practical barriers stemming primarily from institutional, organizational and cognitive differences of the participating organizations. While TD co-production increased the usability of the results in terms of their relevance and accessibility, it paradoxically did not ensure their anchoring in respective institutional and political contexts where societal change occurs. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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