Fundamentals of Transdisciplinary Environmental Research

Course Overview

This 4-week online course provides participants with an overview of core concepts related to the development and practice of an approach to research—transdisciplinarity—that brings science out of the lab and into society to tackle some of the most difficult and pressing environmental challenges of our time. When you successfully complete this course, you will be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the role of transdisciplinary research in addressing complex environmental problems.

Week 1: Science Policy

You will learn about the history of US science policy, what policy for science is, and why current US science policy—and the federal research funding that is derived from it—might not be ideal for helping address complex environmental problems.

Week 2: Knowledge Approaches to Address Society Problems

This week introduces a range of approaches for creating new knowledge and considers what approaches are most suitable for addressing society’s most pressing environmental problems. These so-called “wicked problems” are often best tackled using a transdisciplinary approach. The characteristics of this approach will be examined in the context of a case study concerning southwestern US pine forests.

Week 3: Different Frameworks for Engagement between Science and Society

The need for an awareness of the voices and practices that various stakeholders and community groups use when discussing environmental issues is discussed this week, along with frameworks for effective engagement between scientists and practitioners in their efforts to address environmental issues.

Week 4: Case Studies and Synthesis

In the final week, you will be selecting a real-world issue that concerns an environmental problem as a case study. You will apply what you’ve learned to a research scenario and reflect on how a transdisciplinary research approach is useful for solving complex environmental problems.