Exploring Difference - Transdisciplinary research and its impact at higher education institutions

Exploring Difference - Transdisciplinary research and its impact at higher education institutions

10 October 2011, Freie Universität Berlin 

"Transdisciplinary research" or "theme based research"approaches are clearly on the ascendancy in global academia. 

One indicator is the rising number of bachelor and master degrees classified as multi- or interdisciplinary studies. More importantly perhaps are the changing policies of funding agencies worldwide to advocate grant proposals that have an emphasis on interdisci­pli­nary and collaborative projects instead of single researcher or single discipline ones. 

A notable example of this is the second funding line of the German Excellence Initiative in which large scale interdisciplinary clusters are promoted and supported. The rise of this theme based research stems from the conviction that traditional research disciplines are no longer able to address important problems or global challenges. 

By their very nature, these challenges transcend any particular field. Therefore this research must rely on theories and tools from across the sciences and traditional fields of study. 

For some time the discussions on "theme based research" in Germany have focussed on the following issues:

  • the value added by interdisciplinarity
  • the lack of synthesis between the different perspectives
  • questions of governance
  • questions of funding
  • the role of universities vs. extra-university research institutions etc.

The eighth conference in the ID-E Berlin series examined the opportunities and challenges of the rise of theme based research in global academia. 
A detailed understanding of the different systems and new developments were presented by speakers from Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Europe and North America.