Transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary – Bridging disciplines, knowledge systems and cultures

Bridging disciplines, knowledge systems and cultures in pest management Environmental Management 2014 53(2):429-440) On-line journal copy available through Springer at

ABSTRACT: The success of research in integrated environmental and natural resource management relies on the participation and involvement of different disciplines and stakeholders. This can be difficult to achieve in practice because many initiatives fail to address the underlying social processes required for successful engagement and social learning. We used an action research approach to support a research-based group with a range of disciplinary and stakeholder expertise to critically reflect on their engagement practice and identify lessons around how to collaborate more effectively. This approach is provided here as a guide that can be used to support reflective research practice for engagement in other integration-based initiatives. This paper is set in the context of an integrated wildlife management research case study in New Zealand. We illustrate how multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches can provide a framework for considering the different conversations that need to occur in an integrated research program. We then outline rubrics that list the criteria required in inter- and trans-disciplinary collaborations, along with examples of effective engagement processes that directly support integration through such efforts. Finally, we discuss the implications of these experiences for other researchers and managers seeking to improve engagement and collaboration in integrated science, management and policy initiatives. Our experiences reaffirm the need for those involved in integrative initiatives to attend to the processes of engagement in both formal and informal settings, to provide opportunities for critical reflective practice, and to look for measures of success that acknowledge the importance of effective social process.

KEYWORDS: Interdisciplinary – Transdisciplinary – Multistakeholder engagement – Environmental management – Integration – Action research – Rubrics


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