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Is transdisciplinary where you need to be working?

Most people have heard about the concepts multi disciplinary and interdisciplinary , but is transdisciplinary where you need to be working?

Multi-Disciplinary, Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary

What is meant by a discipline? 

A discipline is recognized as a particular branch of learning or body of knowledge, such as chemistry. A disciplines view of reality, in a general sense, is unique and shaped by the perspectives of its specialized practitioners. It is recognized that single disciplines alone are inadequate to address wicked problems. An approach that draws on more than one discipline is required.

What is meant by multidisciplinary?

Multidisciplinarity is a step towards overcoming the confinements of single disciplines. Multidisciplinarity is the placing side by side of insights from two or more disciplines, without attempting integration of those disciplines.

What is meant by interdisciplinary?

Interdisciplinarity goes a step further by integrating knowledge and modes of thinking from two or more disciplines to create new insights that would not have been possible through single discipline approaches. This in turn may lead to the development of new fields of inquiry, for example biochemistry.

What is meant by transdisciplinary?

Going even further, transdisciplinarity is the term used to describe construction of knowledge that goes beyond academic disciplines to incorporate other forms of knowledge. It is thus concerned with knowledge that lies between disciplines, across disciplines and beyond disciplines. It incorporates perspectives from individuals, society, and organizations, as well as specialist disciplines, and allows for a holistic leap of imagination.

The concept of open transdisciplinary enquiry

In this book chapter, Lawrence reviews the current state of the literature on transdisciplinarity and positions open transdisciplinary inquiry within mono- multi- and transdisciplinary inquiry in general. He then applies open transdiciplinary inquiry to two wicked problems – housing and health.

Open transdisciplinary inquiry goes a final step, to include all validated constructions of knowledge and their worldviews and methods of inquiry. It is a way of achieving greater understanding, leading to innovation.

Open transdisciplinary inquiry is considered an approach that may help overcome shortcomings of traditional scientific research and professional practice, such as the lack of transfer and communication of knowledge between scientists, professionals, politicians, interest groups, and society.

Whilst many projects focus on mulitdisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration we would argue that trandsiciplinary reflects better the reality of working across domain boundaries and argue that this way of thinking underpins how knowledge brokering works in practice and has the potential to support and facilitate open transdisciplinary inquiry.

This summary was developed from the following book chapter:

Lawrence R.J. (2010) ‘Beyond disciplinary confinement to imaginative transdisciplinarity’. In V.A. Brown, J.A. Harris and J.Y. Russell (eds) Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination. Earthscan Ltd, London, pp 16-30.