Transdisciplinarity connotes a research strategy that crosses disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. It applies to research efforts focused on problems that cross the boundaries of two or more disciplines, such as research on effective information systems for biomedical research (see bioinformatics), and can refer to concepts or methods that were originally developed by one discipline, but are now used by several others, such as ethnography, a field research method originally developed in anthropology but now widely used by other disciplines. The Belmont Forum[1] elaborated that a transdisciplinary approach is enabling inputs and scoping across scientific and non-scientific stakeholder communities and facilitating a systemic way of addressing a challenge. This includes initiatives that support the capacity building required for the successful transdisciplinary formulation and implementation of research actions.



Transdisciplinarity has two common meanings:

German usage


In German-speaking countries, Transdisziplinarität refers to the integration of diverse forms of research, and includes specific methods for relating knowledge in problem-solving.[2] A 2003 conference held at the University of Göttingen showcased the diverse meanings of multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity and made suggestions for converging them without eliminating present usages.[3]

When the very nature of a problem is under dispute, transdisciplinarity can help determine the most relevant problems and research questions involved.[4] A first type of question concerns the cause of the present problems and their future development (system knowledge). Another concerns which values and norms can be used to form goals of the problem-solving process (target knowledge). A third relates to how a problematic situation can be transformed and improved (transformation knowledge). Transdisciplinarity requires adequate addressing of the complexity of problems and the diversity of perceptions of them, that abstract and case-specific knowledge are linked, and that practices promote the common good.[5][6]

Transdisciplinarity arises when participating experts interact in an open discussion and dialogue, giving equal weight to each perspective and relating them to each other. This is difficult because of the overwhelming amount of information involved, and because of incommensurability of specialized languages in each field of expertise. To excel under these conditions, researchers need not only in-depth knowledge and know-how of the disciplines involved, but skills in moderation, mediation, association and transfer.

Wider usage


Transdisciplinarity is also used to signify a unity of knowledge beyond disciplines.[7]

Jean Piaget introduced this usage of the term in 1970, and in 1987, the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET) adopted the Charter of Transdisciplinarity[8] at the 1st World Congress of Transdisciplinarity, Convento da Arrabida, Portugal, November 1994.

In the CIRET approach, transdisciplinarity is radically distinct from interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity, like pluridisciplinarity, concerns the transfer of methods from one discipline to another, allowing research to spill over disciplinary boundaries, but staying within the framework of disciplinary research.

As the prefix "trans" indicates, transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond each individual discipline. Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the overarching unity of knowledge.

Another critical defining characteristic of transdisciplinary research is the inclusion of stakeholders in defining research objectives and strategies in order to better incorporate the diffusion of learning produced by the research. Collaboration between stakeholders is deemed essential – not merely at an academic or disciplinary collaboration level, but through active collaboration with people affected by the research and community-based stakeholders. In such a way, transdisciplinary collaboration becomes uniquely capable of engaging with different ways of knowing the world, generating new knowledge, and helping stakeholders understand and incorporate the results or lessons learned by the research.[9]

Transdisciplinarity is defined by Basarab Nicolescu through three methodological postulates: the existence of levels of Reality, the logic of the included middle, and complexity.[10] In the presence of several levels of Reality the space between disciplines and beyond disciplines is full of information. Disciplinary research concerns, at most, one and the same level of Reality; moreover, in most cases, it only concerns fragments of one level of Reality. On the contrary, transdisciplinarity concerns the dynamics engendered by the action of several levels of Reality at once. The discovery of these dynamics necessarily passes through disciplinary knowledge. While not a new discipline or a new superdiscipline, transdisciplinarity is nourished by disciplinary research; in turn, disciplinary research is clarified by transdisciplinary knowledge in a new, fertile way. In this sense, disciplinary and transdisciplinary research are not antagonistic but complementary. As in the case of disciplinarity, transdisciplinary research is not antagonistic but complementary to multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity research.

According to Nicolescu, transdisciplinarity is nevertheless radically distinct from multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity because of its goal, the understanding of the present world, which cannot be accomplished in the framework of disciplinary research.[citation needed] The goal of multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity always remains within the framework of disciplinary research. If transdisciplinarity is often confused with interdisciplinarity or multidisciplinarity (and by the same token, we note that interdisciplinarity is often confused with multidisciplinarity) this is explained in large part by the fact that all three overflow disciplinary boundaries. Advocates maintain this confusion hides the huge potential of transdisciplinarity.[11] One of the best known professionals of transdisciplinarity in Argentina is Pablo Tigani, and his concept about transdisciplinarity is:

It is the art of combining several sciences in one person. A transdisciplinary is a scientist trained in various academic disciplines. This person merged all his knowledge into one thick wire. That united knowledge wire is used to solve problems that include many problems. The decision of a transdisciplinary executive is the only one that takes into account the total resolution of a problem without leaving any loose thread.[This quote needs a citation]

Currently, transdisciplinarity is a consolidated academic field that is giving rise to new applied researches, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this sense, the transdisciplinary and biomimetics research of Javier Collado[12] on Big History represents an ecology of knowledge between scientific knowledge and the ancestral wisdom of native peoples, such as Indigenous peoples in Ecuador. According to Collado,[13] the transdisciplinary methodology applied in the field of Big History seeks to understand the interconnections of the human race with the different levels of reality that co-exist in nature and in the cosmos, and this includes mystical and spiritual experiences, very present in the rituals of shamanism with ayahuasca and other sacred plants. In abstract, the teaching of Big History in universities of Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina implies a transdisciplinary vision that integrates and unifies diverse epistemes that are in, between, and beyond the scientific disciplines, that is, including ancestral wisdom, spirituality, art, emotions, mystical experiences and other dimensions forgotten in the history of science, specially by the positivist approach.

Transdisciplinary education


Transdisciplinary education is education that brings integration of different disciplines in a harmonious manner to construct new knowledge and uplift the learner to higher domains of cognitive abilities and sustained knowledge and skills. It involves better neural networking for lifelong learning.[14]

Transdisciplinarity has been flagged internationally as an important aim of education. For example, Global Education Magazine, an international journal supported by UNESCO and UNHCR:

"transdisciplinarity represents the capable germ to promote an endogenous development of the evolutionary spirit of internal critical consciousness, where religion and science are complementary. Respect, solidarity and cooperation should be global standards for the entire human development with no boundaries. This requires a radical change in the ontological models of sustainable development, global education and world-society. We must rely on the recognition of a plurality of models, cultures and socio-economical diversification. As well as biodiversity is the way for the emergence of new species, cultural diversity represents the creative potential of world-society."[15]

Influence in disciplines and fields


Arts and humanities


Transdisciplinarity can be found in the arts and humanities. For example, the Planetary Collegium seeks "the development of transdisciplinary discourse in the convergence of art, science, technology and consciousness research." The Plasticities Sciences Arts (PSA) research group also develops transdisciplinary approaches regarding humanities and fundamental sciences relationships as well as the Art & Science field. An example of transdisciplinary research in the arts and humanities can be seen in Lucy Jeffery's study on the work of Samuel Beckett, entitled Transdisciplinary Beckett: Visual Arts, Music, and the Creative Process.[16]

Human sciences


The range of transdisciplinarity becomes clear when the four central questions of biological research ((1) causation, (2) ontogeny, (3) adaptation, (4) phylogeny [after Niko Tinbergen 1963, see also Tinbergen's four questions, cf. Aristotle: Causality / Four Major Causes]) are graphed against distinct levels of analysis (e.g. cell, organ, individual, group; [cf. "Laws about the Levels of Complexity" of Nicolai Hartmann 1940/1964, see also Rupert Riedl 1984]):[17]

Causation Ontogeny Adaptation Phylogeny

In this "scheme of transdisciplinarity", all anthropological disciplines (paragraph C in the table of the pdf-file below), their questions (paragraph A: see pdf-file) and results (paragraph B: see pdf-file) can be intertwined and allocated with each other for examples how these aspects go into those little boxes in the matrix.[18] This chart includes all realms of anthropological research (no one is excluded). It is the starting point for a systematical order for all human sciences, and also a source for a consistent networking and structuring of their results. This "bio-psycho-social" orientation framework is the basis for the development of the "Fundamental Theory of Human Sciences" and for a transdisciplinary consensus. (In this tabulated orientation matrix the questions and reference levels in italics are also the subject of the humanities.). Niko Tinbergen was familiar with both conceptual categories (i.e. the four central questions of biological research and the levels of analysis), the tabulation was made by Gerhard Medicus. Certainly, a humanist perspective always involves a transdisciplinary focus. A good and classic example of mixing very different sciences was the work developed by Leibniz in seventeenth-eighteenth centuries in order to create a universal system of justice.[19]

Health science


The term transdisciplinarity is increasingly prevalent in health care research and has been identified as important to improving the effectiveness and efficiency in health care.[20] Transdisciplinary within public health emphasizes integrating diverse individuals, skills, perspectives, and expertise across disciplines to dissolve traditional boundaries and develop holistic approaches linking ecosystem and human health boundaries.[21]

See also





  1. ^ "Belmont Forum". Belmont Forum. Archived from the original on 2021-07-30. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  2. ^ Mittelstrass 2003.
  3. ^ Brand, Schaller & Völker 2004.
  4. ^ Funtowicz & Ravetz 1993.
  5. ^ Hirsch Hadorn 2008.
  6. ^ Jaeger & Scheringer 1998.
  7. ^ Nicolescu 2002.
  8. ^ "The Charter of Transdisciplinarity |". Archived from the original on 2021-07-31. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  9. ^ Wickson, Carew & Russell 2006.
  10. ^ Nicolescu 2008.
  11. ^ Hult, F.M. (2010). Theme-based research in the transdisciplinary field of educational linguistics. In F.M. Hult (Ed.), Directions and prospects for educational linguistics (pp. 19-32). New York: Springer.
  12. ^ Collado-Ruano 2018.
  13. ^ Collado-Ruano 2016.
  14. ^ (Sindhya, 2019). Archived 2022-02-02 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Transdisciplinary Education as Ethic of the Diversity Reform in the World-Society of the 21st Century, article published by Javier Collado on June 20th: World Refugee Day in Global Education Magazine, ISSN 2255-033X
  16. ^ Jeffery 2021.
  17. ^ Medicus 2005.
  18. ^ see e.g. the table "The Framework of Anthropological Research" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2014-07-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  19. ^ See José Andrés-Gallego, 42. "Are Humanism and Mixed Methods Related? Leibniz's Universal (Chinese) Dream": Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 29(2) (2015): 118-132: Archived 2016-08-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Van Bewer, Vanessa (October 2017). "Transdisciplinarity in Health Care: A Concept Analysis". Nursing Forum. 52 (4): 339–347. doi:10.1111/nuf.12200. PMID 28547926.
  21. ^ Sell, Kerstin; Hommes, Franziska; Fischer, Florian; Arnold, Laura (2022-09-01). "Multi-, Inter-, and Transdisciplinarity within the Public Health Workforce: A Scoping Review to Assess Definitions and Applications of Concepts". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 19 (17): 10902. doi:10.3390/ijerph191710902. ISSN 1660-4601. PMC 9517885. PMID 36078616.

Works cited

  • Brand, Frank; Schaller, Franz; Völker, Harald, eds. (2004). Transdisziplinarität: Bestandsaufnahme und Perspektiven [Transdisciplinarity: inventory and perspectives] (in German). Göttingen: Universitätsverlag.
  • Collado-Ruano, Javier (January–June 2016). "Bioethics as a transdisciplinary science of complexity: a coevolutive introduction from the Big History". Revista Colombiana de Bioética. 11 (1): 56. Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  • Collado-Ruano, Javier (2018). Coevolution in the Big History: A Transdisciplinary and Biomimetic Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (PDF) (Dissertation). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-06-28. Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  • Funtowicz, S.; Ravetz, J. (1993). "Science for the post-normal age". Futures. 31 (7): 735–755.
  • Hirsch Hadorn, Gertrude; et al., eds. (2008). Handbook of Transdisciplinary Research. Heidelberg: Springer.
  • Jaeger, J.; Scheringer, M. (1998). "Transdisziplinarität: Problemorientierung ohne Methodenzwang" [Transdisciplinarity: problem orientation without methodological constraints] (PDF). GAIA (in German). 7 (1): 10–25. doi:10.14512/gaia.7.1.4.
  • Medicus, Gerhard (2005). "Mapping Transdisciplinarity in Human Sciences" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-02-09. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  • Jeffery, Lucy (2021). Transdisciplinary Beckett: Visual Arts, Music, and the Creative Process. London: ibidem.
  • Mittelstrass, Jürgen (2003). Transdisziplinarität: wissenschaftliche Zukunft und institutionelle Wirklichkeit [Transdisciplinarity: scientific future and institutional reality] (in German). UVK, Univ.-Verlag Konstanz. ISBN 3-87940-786-X.
  • Nicolescu, Basarab (2002). Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity. Translated by Karen-Claire Voss. New York: State University of New York (SUNY) Press.
  • Nicolescu, Basarab, ed. (2008). Transdisciplinarity: Theory and Practice. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
  • Wickson, F.; Carew, A. L.; Russell, A. W. (2006). "Transdisciplinary research: characteristics, quandaries and quality". Futures. 38 (9): 1046–1059. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2006.02.011.

Further reading

  • Carmona, Bernard (2009). Le réveil du génie de l'apprenant [The awakening of the learner's genius] (in French). Editions l'Harmattan.
  • Carmona, Bernard (2013). Ingénium transdisciplinaire: La pratique du débat dans le bouddhisme tibétain [Transdisciplinary Genius: The practice of debate in Tibetan Buddhism] (in French). Editions l'Harmattan.
  • Hamberger, E.; Luger, K., eds. (2008). Transdisziplinäre Kommunikation: Aktuelle Be-Deutungen im fächerübergreifenden Dialog [Transdisciplinary communication: Current meanings in interdisciplinary dialogue] (in German). Vienna: Österr. Kunst- und Kulturverlag. ISBN 978-3-85437-264-6.
  • Hartmann, Nicolai (1964) [1939]. Der Aufbau der realen Welt (2nd ed.). Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • Max-Neef, Manfred A. (2005). "Foundations of Transdisciplinarity". Ecological Economics. 53 (1): 5–16. Bibcode:2005EcoEc..53....5M. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.01.014.
  • Medicus, Gerhard (2015). Being Human: Bridging the Gap between the Sciences of Body and Mind (PDF). Berlin. doi:10.25651/1.2022.0005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2018-02-08.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Mittelstrass, Jürgen (4 October 2000). Transdisciplinarity: New Structures in Science. The conference at Schloss Ringberg. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19.
  • Riedl, Rupert (1984). The Biology of Knowledge. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Steinmetz, George (2007). "Transdisciplinarity as a Nonimperial Encounter". Thesis Eleven. 91 (1): 48–65. doi:10.1177/0725513607082002. Archived from the original on 2024-04-21.
  • Stokols, Daniel (2006). "Toward a science of transdisciplinary action research". American Journal of Community Psychology. 38 (1–2): 63–77. doi:10.1007/s10464-006-9060-5. PMID 16791514.
  • Tinbergen, Nico (1963). "On Aims and Methods in Ethology". Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie. 20 (4): 410–433. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1963.tb01161.x.
  • Vilsmaier, Ulli; Merçon, Juliana; Meyer, Esther (2023). "Transdisciplinarity". In Philipp, Thorsten; Schmohl, Tobias (eds.). Handbook Transdisciplinary Learning. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag. pp. 381–390. ISBN 978-3-8376-6347-1.
  • Integral Research Center
  • transdisciplinary-net, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
  • Transdisciplinary Case Studies at ETH Zurich
  • International Center for Transdisciplinary Research Archived 2009-09-06 at the Wayback Machine The site of the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET). E-zine "Transdisciplinary Encounters".
  • Transdisciplinary Studies The book series dedicated to transdisciplinary research.
  • Medicus, Gerhard. "Basic Theory of Human Sciences". Archived from the original (ppt; with explanations in the notes) on 2018-02-09. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  • World Knowledge Dialogue Foundation
  • Transdisciplinary Studies at Claremont Graduate University
  • PLASTIR : The Transdisciplinary Review of human plasticity
  • Journal of the International Association of Transdisciplinary Psychology