Integrative Research and Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production: A Review of Barriers and Bridges
Contemporary policies about use of natural resources clearly pronounce sustainable development towards the goal sustainability as a focal objective. A key challenge for research is to support improvements and management by evaluation of sustainability policy implementation, i.e. outcomes on the ground and the social process in actual landscapes. However, while a landscape consists of integrated social and ecological subsystems and should thus be treated as a holistic unit or system, most research and postgraduate training is disciplinary. This means that very few researchers are equipped to solve problems or contribute to solutions in the non-academic world. There is thus a need for universities to learn integrative (interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary) research and knowledge production that meets complex challenges related to sustainable development and sustainability issues as for example management and governance of natural resources. In this paper I review the background, concepts and the barriers and bridges to integrative research and knowledge production. As a base for evaluation and development of integrative research projects I propose a normative model for integrative knowledge production processes. This was done through a literature review and a study of an integrative research project. I discuss how transdisciplinary research about landscapes and to solve complex sustainability issues can be designed, viz. (1) there is a need for a common understanding of different types of integrative research, (2) an outspoken aim to develop socially robust knowledge, (3) a model for transdisciplinary collaborative learning processes, and (4) a funding scheme that include academic and non-academic participants and matches the long process of partnership building during the full knowledge production process, from problem identification/definition to an improvement or a management solution.