Transdisciplinary Approaches to Integrating Policy and Science for Sustainability (17w2688)

Arriving in Banff, Alberta Friday, October 6 and departing Sunday October 8, 2017


Gabriela Alonso Yanez (University of Calgary)

Kathleen Halvorsen (Michigan Technological University)

Marcella Ohira (Inter American Institute for Global Change Research)


The objective of the workshop is to train future leaders in transdisciplinary (TD) approaches to integrating policy and science for sustainability.

The workshop includes 27 participants from 15 countries. All participants have confirmed attendance. The participants are all early career professionals (graduate students, early to mid-career scientists in the humanities, natural and engineering sciences; NGOs and community organization staff, and private sector employees) representing a diversity of roles in decision-making and research. All participants are currently involved in global change related projects, such as agriculture, land use, public health, sustainable development, biodiversity, energy and water. The geographical scale is also representative, including 15 countries from North, Central and South America.

The workshop will enable this diverse group of participants to collaborate across diverse interests, sectors, and institutional arrangements. Thus, the workshop will tackle several levels of collaboration: 1) team (among individuals), 2) interdisciplinary (cross disciplinary), 3) transdisciplinary (cross sector), and 4) cultural and regional (across countries). Each level of collaboration is a challenge; through seminar activities, these levels will be addressed individually and collectively to create a comprehensive approach to tackling global change issues. During the workshop, participants will collaborate in TD teams to develop research questions of common interest, identify potential sources of funding, and design research proposals to address these research questions. This will require that participants develop skills to communicate across different disciplines, value others’ perspectives and points of view, and engage in productive teamwork with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Participants will have opportunities to learn to: a) form effective collaborative teams, b) enhance TD teamwork skills, and c) identify effective pathways to share findings, tools, and approaches with non-academic collaborators.

A scientific committee (SC) that includes scientists and experts on collaboration and teamwork developed this intensive, two-day, interactive workshop. SC members include professionals from Canada, the United States, Uruguay, and Dominican Republic. The SC ensures the intellectual merit of the workshop program and includes senior scientists and decision makers from several research, policy and indigenous organizations.

One of the main institutions co-organizing the workshop is the Inter American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI). This Institute has extensive experience in working with academia, research organizations, government and civil society, and in particular in developing training events. To date, it has hosted over 34 seminars and institutes in more than 16 countries of the Americas with several partners and collaborators (universities, government agencies, NGOs and science funding agencies). The IAI is considered to be at the forefront of developing innovative capacity building programs in global change sciences.

The workshop comprises two sessions. The first session took place in November 2016 in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), along with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), provided funding for the first session. The second session will take place at the Banff International Research Station (pending funding). Between the first and second sessions, participants continue their collaboration on project proposal development. The groups interact online, “meeting” virtually (about once or twice a month) with IAI staff and workshop facilitators acting as mentors to review progress in proposal development and identify potential project funding sources. The workshop program at BIRS will address and include: elements for successful teamwork, team formation, management, and assessment; multi-disciplinary method and methods to engage stakeholders; project management and assessment; science communication to different audiences; and revising and finalizing transdisciplinary participant team proposals.

A sub-set of the instructional team is conducting research on the learning processes underpinning this training intervention. Specifically, studying how teams move through a series of phases when they are formed and how they organize their work, define and assign tasks, establish timelines and develop a strategy to achieve a goal.

Scientists and practitioners currently addressing global change problems are required to engage in actionable science that is increasingly interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and an international effort. There is a present need to better prepare scientists and practitioners for success in this new collaborative environment. This training offers a pathway to create new solutions-oriented knowledge and innovative methods that can make communities more resilient, adaptable and healthier.