Transdisciplinary research: Exploring impact, knowledge and quality in the early stages of a sustainable development project.

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How to understand impact, recognise different types of knowledge and assess quality in a transdisciplinary project? The authors were faced with these questions at the start of a four-year project created to address aspects of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of clean water and sanitation. The decision by a project consortium to adopt a transdisciplinary approach – i.e. research that emphasises the need to include both scientific and societal stakeholders – raised a number of practical issues. In particular, issues relating to an understanding of research impact; the existence of alternative knowledge typologies in transdisciplinary research; and uncertainty regarding an assessment of research quality – given the involvement of multiple discipline paradigms. The aim of this paper is to present and evaluate a novel analytical framework that addresses issues relating to impact, knowledge and quality in transdisciplinary research. The purpose of developing the framework was to address some of the inherent problems of transdisciplinary research – in particular how to structure the different perceptions and expectations of project consortium partners. The framework was constructed through an iterative process of data collection and qualitative analysis in the initial phase of the project. This process enabled the authors to structure, in a meaningful way, the perceptions of different scientific and societal actors in the project consortium. The framing exercise raised wider issues concerning how to assess the quality of transdisciplinary research. The importance of the study is that it presents new ways by which academics and practitioners can address some of the inherent problems involved in undertaking transdisciplinary research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-491
Number of pages11
JournalWorld Development
Early online date21 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Oct 2019


  • Impact
  • Knowledge typologies
  • Quality
  • Transdisciplinary research


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