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Applying td methods and tools thoughtfully

Generic aspects to consider when applying td methods

Methods can support co-production of knowledge. The success of co-production depends on several types of expertise of leaders of a td research, including:

  • methodological expertise;
  • content-related expertise;
  • social-dynamic expertise (Defila & DiGiulio 2019).

The circumstances under which different groups or people can collaborate are shaped by many aspects such as pre-existing power relations and hierarchies, and their specific democratic, demographic and political conditions (Hemström et al. 2021).

Please also consider that many of the td methods are only promising, when there is a readiness and openness to engage in a dialogue amongst the relevant actors to be involved. If an initial readiness and openness is lacking, other approaches such as mediation may be better placed.

If you decide to apply td methods, be aware that this requires more than selecting one method and following a step-by-step procedure. You may think about

  • the context of the co-production process at hand, and considering the extent to which the method can be replicated and transferred, or may need to be adapted;
  • how to adapt a chosen method to the specific situation and context (field of research, actors involved, power relations, culture of collaboration);
  • how to further elaborate on the different perspectives identified with the help of a td method (e.g., by identifying a common ground or by exploring conflicting perspectives);
  • how to combine methods;
  • how to induce reflexivity in td researchers so that they contribute to an iterative co-production process.

Below, we list a selection of links that support researchers in developing a professional attitude towards generic requirements when leading a co-production process.

This list is not exhaustive and may be complemented/adjusted over time. The list builds on interactions between td-net and its community in the years 2021 – 2022 and has been compiled pragmatically, without any structured approach to select and qualify the resources or to counter-act bias, e.g. regarding world regions or languages. The main intention is to provide some first inspiration and orientation by showcasing the work of capacity building providers which is relevant for td research.

td-net has compiled a selection of guides, guidelines and blogs on supportive concepts for td processes (including a brief commentary on how these supportive concepts complement the td-net toolbox):

Keywords: transboundary research partnerships | integration & implementation science | team science | multi-stakeholder-partnerships

Td methods may help to make different perspectives explicit and invite to relate perspectives to each other. To what extent this enables further co-production of knowledge also depends on the mindsets and skills of those involved, e.g. regarding reflexivity or openness for transformative learning.

Keywords: challenge-oriented | grasping complexity | promote common good | integration | types of knowledge | social learning | abstract and case-specific knowledge

Keywords: inquiry-advocacy-matrix | systems approach | ongoing learning | facilitation | teamwork | project management

Keywords: critical awareness | communication | commitment | connectedness | creativity | curiosity

Keywords: listening | communicative | reflexive | flexible | ready to leave the comfort zone | context-sensitive | inclusive

Keywords: id/td training | integration | proposal writing | leadership | reflexivity

Keywords: mutual learning | team effectiveness

Keywords: reflexivity | search for certainty | context matters | reflective practice

Transdisciplinary research most often requires the application of more than one method. Therefore, each method application is embedded in an overarching process design that combines the contributions to co-production of different td methods.

Various aspects to consider when leading a co-production process (beyond the application of specific methods) are outlined in chapter II of this guide.
keywords: facilitating transdisciplinary | active intermediation | reflexivity | knowledge integration | boundary space

(Framework #1 corresponds to the framework we use in the “search by phases” in this web portal)

Keywords: principles | purposes | functions | functionalities | design patterns & instruments | process design | facilitation plan

An ‘ideal type’ of a td process is illustrated and discussed in this MOOC from week 3 onwards.
keywords: problem framing | problem analysis | exploring impact

Keywords: methodological agility | switching between mono-, multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary research methodologies | Narrative Action Research (NAR) | Transformative Transdisciplinarity

Td methods in the td-net toolbox are described in a generic manner so that they have the potential to be applied in various fields. To unleash their full potential, methods should be adapted to context – i. to the types and heterogeneity of collaborators, availability of resources, preceded experiences, and power relations. Thereby, td methods support iterative processes of de-contextualisation and re-contextualisation of knowledge.

In addition, td-net acknowledges that most of the methods on the td-net web portal for co-producing knowledge have been developed in Northern contexts and we encourage to carefully examine and explore how tools and methods may look differently and should be shaped accordingly for formal collaborations in other contexts.

To foster potential societal effectiveness, the TransImpact project reports on the relation between framework conditions [context] and project-specific shaping processes in td research.
Keywords: clarification | observation | assessment | adaptation | historicity | funding conditions | environment | heterogenous actors | interests | roles & responsibilities | connectivity | collaboration culture

Keywords: cultural assumptions | socio-cultural context | forms of meaningful participation | local settings

Knowledge about suitable td methods is only one aspect of relevant for knowledge co-production. Additional socio-dynamic, reflective, and integrative competences are needed to support integration or convergence in heterogenous teams.
Many of these are acquired ‘by doing’, embodied and thus part of tacit knowledge. Several communities of professionals with experience in nurturing integration at the interface between disciplines and sectors are emerging with the aim to put these experiences into value.

A td research team may apply certain td methods in certain situations, but also the team composition and the way the team interact in its everyday activities affects the quality of co-production.

The INSciTS Network elaborates on various aspects of research team effectiveness, organizes a corresponding yearly conference and maintains a vivid mailing list.

Keywords: trust | vision | self-awareness and emotional intelligence | leadership | mentoring | team evolution & dynamics | communication | recognition & sharing success | conflict and disagreement | navigating and leveraging networks and systems

Translation of Forschungverbundsmanagement (Defila /Di Giulio 2006, Input will follow)


Keywords: social sensitivity | emotional engagement | team functioning | team communication

Password: a2ruTDNet

Keywords: arts | collaborative competences | role of leaders | solid structure | bridging difference | environment for cross-disciplinary collaboration | facilitation guide | participant workbook | creative wisdom

Td research aims for including relevant perspectives, which implies that more and less powerful actors may be involved. In a research context with strong power imbalance between actors, it may be supportive to collaborate with a professional mediator. It may also be appropriate to combine td methods for jointly co-producing knowledge in heterogenous teams with methods with a special focus on making individual perspectives of the less powerful heard (before discussing them in heterogenous teams); and/or with methods that help to question the status quo. Such methods can be found in compilations focusing on tools for participation – participatory processes, or participatory (action) research methods. These tools may serve td research, but also other purposes, such as general participatory project management (without a clear focus on research).

Below you find a selection of these method compilations. The selection is by no means exhaustive and followed a pragmatic approach (without any structured approach to qualify them). We encourage you to consider in your method selection whether the method has already been applied – or even tested and been proven useful – in scientific contexts. You may also contact td-net for exchanges on such scientific backgrounds of methods:

Td methods are often applied in workshop settings. The quality of co-production depends on the ability of the workshop facilitator – e.g. to provide a ‘safe space’ for expressing concerns, ‘unfinished thoughts’, and opinions.

Besides these concrete tips for td researchers, there are manyfold compilations on facilitation tools (with no special focus on research projects). Here we name a few the td-net team has been using in its work; without any claim for comprehensiveness:

Applying td methods for co-producing knowledge seldomly means that you can take a ready-made method description and directly apply it in a mechanistic way. More often, td methods have to be creatively adapted so that they serve the research purpose, time availability, situation and context. This is a time-consuming endeavour that has to be considered in the project budget.

Defila R., Di Giulio A. (2019): Wie Reallabore für Herausforderungen und Expertise in der Gestaltung transdisziplinären und transformativen Forschens sensibilisieren – eine Einführung. In: Defila R., Di Giulio A. (Hrsg.): Transdisziplinär und transformativ forschen, Band 2. Eine Methodensammlung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. S. 1-30. doi: 10.1007/978-3-658-27135-0_1

Hemström, Kerstin, David Simon, Henrietta Palmer, Beth Perry, und M. Polk. 2021. Transdisciplinary knowledge co-production: a guide for sustainable cities. Rugby, Warwickshire, UK: Practical Action Publishing.