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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

The Challenge of Transdisciplinary Research: A Case Study of Learning by Evaluation for Sustainable Transport Infrastructures

Axelsson, Robert; Ljung, Magnus; Blicharska, Malgorzata; Frisk, Michael; Henningsson, Marianne; Mikusinski, Grzegorz; Folkeson, Lennart; Goransson, Gorgen; Jonsson-Ekstrom, Sofia; Sjolund, Anders; Skoog, Jan; Tornblom, Johan; Angelstam, Per


While transdisciplinary (TD) research is desired in order to solve real world sustainability issues, this may be challenging for both academic and non-academic participants. Supporting learning through evaluation, we analyzed a project aiming at sustainable transport infrastructures. After developing a TD research framework as a benchmark, two external independent evaluators interviewed all project researchers, representatives for end-users, and donors. The evaluators compared results with the framework, and evaluators and participants critically reflected on the results together. There were three inconsistencies relative to the framework: (1) limited understanding of TD research among project management, end-users, and most of the researchers; (2) no structured learning process among end-users; instead, they expressed very diverse opinions about what they expected from the project; (3) project leaders had limited understanding of the special challenges of TD research, did not fully understand the status of the project's social system, and thus did not act as facilitators of the required collaborative learning process. Non-academic participants saw themselves as customers and not as partners in the knowledge production process. We conclude that TD problem-solving research requires much time and needs facilitation and training. A preparatory phase with a lower level of funding would be helpful in preparing for TD processes.


learning through evaluation; research design; researcher-stakeholder collaboration; sustainability; transdisciplinary; sustainable development; transport infrastructure

Published in

2020, volume: 12, number: 17, article number: 6995
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Axelsson, Robert
Western Visayas Integrated Learning Centre
Blicharska, Malgorzata
Uppsala University
Frisk, Michael
Henningsson, Marianne
Linnaeus University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management
Folkeson, Lennart
Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI)
Goransson, Gorgen
Linnaeus University
Jonsson-Ekstrom, Sofia
Linnaeus University
Sjolund, Anders
Swedish Transport Adm
Skoog, Jan
Swedish Transport Adm
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

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