Transdisciplinary studies
Transdisciplinary Studies are an area of research and education that addresses contemporary issues that cannot be solved by one or even a few points-of-view. It brings together academic experts, field practitioners, community members, research scientists, political leaders, and business owners among others to solve some of the pressing problems facing the world, from the local to the global.


Transdisciplinary studies are related to a set of ideas such as interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and integrative studies. What sets transdisciplinary studies apart from the others is a particular emphasis on engagement, investigation, and participation in addressing present-day issues and problems in a manner that explicitly destabilizes disciplinary boundaries while respecting disciplinary expertise. They are built around three key concepts: transformative praxis, constructive problem-solving and real-world engagement. The advocates of transdisciplinary studies argue that they come from the nature of the 21st century world, with its loss of a unifying narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 of knowledge, the continuing destabilization of disciplinary boundaries, and the transgressive character of the times. Our world, they claim, requires a contextualizing of knowledge in order to address complex worldwide issues (such as global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 and ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic orreligious group from certain geographic areas....

) and a collaboration
Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, — for example, an intriguing endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing...

 across academic disciplines that includes non-academics in solving problems and addressing global issues.

The Charter of transdisciplinarity

Transdisciplinary studies as a field of academic activity is rooted in the Charter of Transdisciplinarity, adopted at the First World Congress of Transdisciplinarity
Transdisciplinarity connotes a research strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. It applies to research efforts focused on problems that cross the boundaries of two or more disciplines, such as research on effective information systems for biomedical...

 at the Convento da Arrábida, Portugal in 1994. It is clear from the beginning of the document that transdisciplinarity is not another method or another field of research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

. At its core, the charter lays out an ethos
Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence its hearer's emotions, behaviors, and even morals. Early Greek stories of...

, a call to a way of life, a “personal moral commitment.” It begins with what can only be called a pessimistic overview of the world in the late 20th century, a complex world riddled with conflict and verging on self-destruction, a world where the secular and the spiritual
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

, the scientific and the humanistic, are divorced and unable to speak to each other.

In the preamble, phrases such as “the triumph of techno-science,” “productivity
Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of what is produced to what is required to produce it. Usually this ratio is in the form of an average, expressing the total output divided by the total input...

 for productivity’s sake” and “a new brand of obscurantism
Obscurantism is the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known. There are two, common, historical and intellectual, denotations: 1) restricting knowledge—opposition to the spread of knowledge, a policy of withholding knowledge from the...

” raise ominous visions of a world on the edge. The fifteen articles of the charter that follow reject a variety of forces that threaten humanity: the reduction of human beings to “formal structures” and of reality
In philosophy, reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. In a wider definition, reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible...

 to a “single level governed by a single form of logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

.” It rejects those that “strive for mastery,” the “claim to total objectivity,” and the refusal of “dialogue
Dialogue is a literary and theatrical form consisting of a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people....

 and discussion
Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication". The following are three more specific definitions:...

,” as well as claims to primacy
Primacy of mind
A belief in the primacy of mind is a ubiquitous element in the history of ideas. In this view the mind or soul is not only primary as an explanation of human nature, but is the only conceivable explanation, as nothing so subtle and sublime as reason and morality could possibly emerge from matter...

 by particular cultures, market economics, and specific disciplines.

Hope lies in “the transdisciplinary vision,” an “open-minded rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

” that encompasses not only science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, both natural
Natural is an adjective that refers to Nature.Natural may refer too:In science and mathematics:* Natural transformation, category theory in mathematics* Natural foods...

 and social
The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms...

, and the humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

, but also “spiritual experience,” a “transhistorical horizon,” “transcultural” meaning, and “transnational” citizenship. It is a rigorous rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

 that must also be open to “the unknown, the unexpected and the unforeseeable,” including “myth
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 and religions,” while rejecting dogmatism, ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

, and intolerance
Religious intolerance
Religious intolerance is intolerance against another's religious beliefs or practices.-Definition:The mere statement on the part of a religion that its own beliefs and practices are correct and any contrary beliefs incorrect does not in itself constitute intolerance...


The values embedded in the transdisciplinary vision are basic: sharing, respect, and resolve. As with any ethos
Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence its hearer's emotions, behaviors, and even morals. Early Greek stories of...

, it calls for a commitment not to a method or practice, but to a way of being; not to a new religion or metaphysics, but to a new way of life. The binary distinctions between the public and the private, the mental and the physical, the object and the subject, are transcended in this new vision. It is a distinctly postmodern point-of-view, calling on women and men, on “transdisciplinary-minded persons of all countries” to join in bringing this vision into reality, into “everyday life
Everyday Life
Everyday Life is the first solo album made by Life MC of the British Hip Hop group Phi Life Cypher....

.” It is a bold vision; some might even say an impossible one, filled with a zeal for justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, equality, inclusion, and true democratic decision-making.

Challenges of transdiciplinary studies were further taken up at the UNESCO sponsored Symposium on Transdisciplinarity at the Chateau Royaumont, France, in 1997 and the issues involved have become central areas of research in many fields, such as environment, health, information technology. (See Latttanzi in Further Reading below).

Transdisciplinary organizations

The primary places to find continuing transdisciplinary work are mostly European, although one can find American and Australian groups as well. [CIRET], the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research, based in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, is a central force in the propagation of transdisciplinary studies. Td-net: network for transdisciplinarity in sciences and humanities, at the Swiss Academy of Sciences
Swiss Academy of Sciences
The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences is a Swiss organization that supports and networks the sciences at a regional, national and international level...

, acts as a resource for writing and work on transdisciplinary topics. Russian School of transdisciplinarity[anoitt]eng.php, is focused on creating a unified methodology for transdisciplinary studies to teaching it in institutions of higher education as an independent scientific discipline.

Programs in the United States in Transdisciplinary Studies have been created at the University of North Carolina, Woodbury University, New York University, Claremont Graduate University, and Parsons the New School for Design, among others. And in Portugal there is the Centre of Transdisciplinary Studies for Development at University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro.

Further reading

External links

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