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Knickel Marina | Fellow Postdoctoral
2022-10-01 - 2024-09-30 | Research area: Sustainability Research
Knowledge integration in the theory and practice of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration in the agri-food and social-ecological research: From challenges to opportunities

The challenges societies are facing today (e.g. climate crisis, biodiversity decline, resources depletion, pandemics) and the solutions to be developed transcend disciplinary boundaries, are multi-sector and multi-actor, connect local and global, and they are intertwined with diverse and dynamic socio-cultural and political contexts. Pursuing sustainability requires fundamental and deliberate changes in knowledge systems. In fact, integrating different kinds of knowledge and different ways of knowing is increasingly seen as a precondition for achieving sustainability.

A key feature of interdisciplinary (ID) and transdisciplinary (TD) research approaches is their aim to bridge different knowledge systems. To use and generate knowledge for solving complex real-world problems, scientists need higher-order cognitive skills when applying theories, models, concepts or data in ID and TD research. However, contributions on how to theoretically and practically integrate different knowledge systems remain scarce and scattered and multiple inconsistencies are identified between the theory and practice of ID and TD sustainability research.

My research aims to go beyond the state-of-the-art by providing both theoretical and empirical contributions on how to enhance the integration of different knowledge systems. In doing that, I will pay particular attention to underexplored epistemological and cognitive mechanisms. This will include exploring the ‘lenses’ of different actors in the knowledge system and their collaborative capacity as well as examining how joint learning processes and knowledge integration can be fostered across disciplinary, cultural, and sectoral boundaries.

My research will build on a two-step iterative research design whereby theoretical and empirical explorations will be mutually reinforcing. The qualitative and quantitative data available for the analysis comprise three online surveys providing longitudinal data over 4 years and multiple interviews with key actors.

By using different methods in this two-step iterative research design, a more differentiated analysis of knowledge integration and learning processes accounting for socio-cultural context will be possible. Thanks to the novel and encompassing theoretical framing achieved in the first step, the empirical ana­lysis is expected to contribute to shaping theory and indicating new avenues for research.