Transdisciplinary research is increasingly used in projects dealing with transitions to sustainable, resilient and low-carbon societies. Transdisciplinary research projects require collaboration and coordination between researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds. Academic literature provides valuable insights on designing, facilitating, leading and evaluating transdisciplinary projects. While a substantial body of literature explores the challenges associated with transdisciplinary research, there is a scarcity of case studies exploring the challenges faced during different phases of project execution. In this paper we present a reflective account and analysis of our experiences during the first fifteen months of a transdisciplinary research project. The project is used as a case study, following a participatory action research methodology. Our findings verified the three types of challenge mentioned in the literature – inherent, institutional and teamwork related. This paper identifies a fourth type – emergent – that has not been discussed in the literature. Emergent challenges introduce uncertainty into TDR projects and are uncontrollable. Such challenges require research consortium leaders to develop adaptive strategies, and to take a mediation and leadership role in dealing with them. The article makes the following recommendations: emergent challenges require emergent strategies; funding should be more flexible to account for the nature of TDR research; TDR could be evaluated on the basis of its overall impact rather than on inflexible ‘deliverables’; academic publishing strategies must be incorporated into TDR projects; team development and co-location should be facilitated; and academic institutions should include performance and promotion criteria encouraging researchers to undertake roles in TDR projects.
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The Visions & Pathways 2040 team are delighted to announce that their first report – the results of the project’s first year – is now available online and in hard-cover. The report, with results from the first year of the Visions and Pathways 2040 project, is titled 'Glimpses of the future and critical uncertainties'. It’s available online and in print, click here to download a copy.
Abstract: Visions and Pathways 2040 is a research and engagement project that seeks to envision possible future forms of Australian cities and lifestyles in 2040 if they have achieved an 80% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions (on 2013 levels) and have addressed broader resilience issues, and, secondly, to ‘backcast’ from visions possible pathways to the present that may, in turn, suggest policies, strategies and governance structures for reaching them. This paper describes the approaches that were used in the initial phases of the project and early research results.