Transdisciplinarity refers to a research approach that integrates knowledge and expertise from academic and non-academic actors to address complex real-world problems. In the sustainability sciences transdisciplinarity (TD) forms a well-established research mode given the need to resolve pressing social, economic and environmental challenges at local to global scales (Pohl and Hirsch Hadorn, 2007).

TD has been shown to influence the decision-making capacity of stakeholders by building social networks and generating knowledge relevant for action (Hoffmann et al., 2017; Walter et al., 2007). This means that TD can help stakeholders make informed decisions based on a sound understanding of the complex, societally relevant problems being addressed. The involvement of non-academic actors such as policymakers, practitioners and community members in the research process can also help to ensure that the knowledge generated is relevant and applicable in real-world situations.

For early career researchers, TD research offers several advantages. First, it provides an opportunity to acquire new skills, such as co-management and communication with actors outside of academia, which are essential for a successful research career. Second, TD research allows for real-time societal impact of their work, which can be rewarding and motivating. Finally, TD provides access to professional networks, which can be beneficial for future employment opportunities.

The Dresden Leibniz Graduate School encourages and supports the development of PhD theses based on TD research. For practical reasons there are however two key conditions for TD proposals that need to be met at DLGS:

  1. The proposal needs to be linked to an ongoing IOER research project in the Dresden/Saxony region – thus enabling to draw on an already established network of practice actors and working relations.
  2. Applicants should demonstrate German language proficiency (C1 level) – which is required to communicate and interact with diverse local stakeholders, including those not able to speak English.


Further readings on the topic:

  • Hoffmann, S., Pohl, C., Hering, J.G., 2017. Methods and procedures of transdisciplinary knowledge integration: empirical insights from four thematic synthesis processes. Ecol. Soc. 22, art27.
  • Pohl, C., Hirsch Hadorn, G., 2007. Principles for designing transdisciplinary research. Oekom Verlag, Munich.
  • Walter, A.I., Helgenberger, S., Wiek, A., Scholz, R.W., 2007. Measuring societal effects of transdisciplinary research projects: design and application of an evaluation method. Evaluation and Program Planning 30(4):325–338
  • Lang, D.J., Wiek, A., Bergmann, M., Stauffacher, M., Martens, P., Moll, P., Swilling, M., Thomas, C.J., 2012. Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges. Sustainability Science 7(1):25–43
  • Rogga, S. and Zscheischler, J., 2021. Opportunities, balancing acts, and challenges - doing PhDs in transdisciplinary research projects. Environmental Science & Policy 120:138-144