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Methods and procedures of transdisciplinary knowledge integration: empirical insights from four thematic synthesis processes

Sabine Hoffmann, Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Switzerland
Christian Pohl, USYS TdLab, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), Switzerland; td-net, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, Switzerland
Janet G Hering, Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Switzerland; IBP, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), Switzerland; ENAC, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland


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What methods and procedures support transdisciplinary knowledge integration? We address this question by exploring knowledge integration within four thematic synthesis processes of the Swiss National Research Programme 61 Sustainable Water Management (NRP 61). Drawing on literature from inter- and transdisciplinary research, we developed an analytical framework to map different methods and procedures of knowledge integration. We use this framework to characterize the variety of methods and procedures that were combined in the four processes to produce thematic synthesis reports. We suggest that the variety of combinations observed reflects the different objectives and questions that guided the processes of knowledge integration as well as the different roles that leaders assumed in these processes. Although the framework was developed in the course of NRP 61, we consider it as a basis for designing ex ante new synthesis processes by defining and sequencing different synthesis stages and by identifying, for each stage, the contributions of specific scientific and societal actors, the purpose of their contributions, and the methods and procedures supporting their contributions. Used in a formative evaluation process, the framework supports reflection on and adaptation of synthesis processes and also facilitates the generation of new knowledge for designing future processes.

Key words

knowledge integration; methods; procedures; sustainable water management; synthesis

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087