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Governance of learning processes in transdisciplinary climate research projects
Wouter Boon

Last modified: 2012-03-22


Climate change calls for transformative structural changes in socio-technical systems. Research initiatives aiming to contribute to transitions in the climate system are organised in the Netherlands in a large research programme, Knowledge for Climate. This programme typically stimulates ‘sustainability experiments’. These experiments are characterised as 1) involving a large array of scientific disciplines and societal actors; and 2) taking place in a local, context-specific setting.

This article specifically focuses on the knowledge producers involved in these niche experiments and how they interact with knowledge users who are part of the research team. The notion of ‘team science’ is borrowed from studies on healthcare research communities and concerns the scientific endeavours aiming at working on complex problems that call for a cross- and transdisciplinary approach.

Much is known about transdisciplinary interactions in the context of technological development, but the way in which this collaborative knowledge production is embedded in the individual, organisational and institutional backgrounds of the actors involved is not well understood. Moreover, the influence of these backgrounds on learning in these teams could benefit from more research. This boils down to the following central research question: to what extent do individual, organisational and institutional factors influence the effectiveness of teams consisting of a large range of scientists, disciplines and locations that aim to contribute to sustainability experiments?

We study the characteristics of actors involved in transdisciplinary teams in the context of Knowledge for Climate projects and compare these projects to monodisciplinary team projects in climate science in the Netherlands. Event history analysis based on document research and in-depth interviews is used to capture the learning processes over time. The individual, organisational and institutional factors are mainly gathered from in-depth interviews. The analyses will contribute to formulating recommendations on the governance of learning in multi-actor, transdisciplinary research projects.