Actions Speak Louder than Words: Designing transdisciplinary approaches to enact solutions

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Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences


Sustainability science uses a transdisciplinary research process in which academic and non-academic partners collaborate to identify a common problem and co-produce knowledge to develop more sustainable solutions. Sustainability scientists have advanced the theory and practice of facilitating collaborative efforts such that the knowledge created is usable. There has been less emphasis, however, on the last step of the transdisciplinary process: enacting solutions. We analyzed a case study of a transdisciplinary research effort in which co-produced policy simulation information shaped the creation of a new policy mechanism. More specifically, by studying the development of a mechanism for conserving vernal pool ecosystems, we found that four factors helped overcome common challenges to acting upon new information: creating a culture of learning, co-producing policy simulations that acted as boundary objects, integrating research into solution development, and employing an adaptive management approach. With an increased focus on these four factors that enable action, we can better develop the same level of nuanced theoretical concepts currently characterizing the earlier phases of transdisciplinary research, and the practical advice for deliberately designing these efforts.


This research was supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCOR Sustainability Solutions Initiative at the University of Maine. This is Maine Agriculture and Forest Experiment Station Publication 3639 and was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Projects ME0-021705 and ME0-031802 through the Maine Agricultural & Forest Experiment Station.