How to design an impactful research project?

From Failand to Winland is a transdisciplinary research project assessing future energy and food security in Finland with co-creation and future scenarios. In May 2017, Iina Koskinen, interaction specialist at Demos Helsinki, travelled to Tokyo, Japan, to present Winland to Future Earth, an international global change research initiative. Have a look at the three most important design principles behind a transdisciplinary research project and how these principles are implemented in Winland.

Transdisciplinary research aims for change

Sustainability challenges such as climate change, rapid urbanization and air quality need new ways of collaboration, knowledge production and decision-making. This demand sets a new challenge for scientific endeavor. Science not only need to study processes and systems in nature and societies but it has to collaborate with society to promote change towards sustainability. To achieve such transformations towards sustainability, transdisciplinary research approach aims to provide transformational knowledge through active interaction and collaboration among scientists and stakeholders.

Design principle I: towards transformation in society

Transdisciplinary research aims to move beyond mere problem analysis and towards transformation and change in society. It has a focus on societally relevant problems and produces knowledge for both scientific and societal practice. In addition to knowledge about systems, research needs to produce knowledge about targets, ie. scenarios and visions for resilient society. Most importantly, transdisciplinary research aims to produce transformational knowledge which provides the path from the current situation towards a sustainable future.

Design principle II: Involvement of various communities of knowledge

To promote sustainability, transdisciplinary research needs to engage various disciplines to provide scientifically sound, broader and alternative perspectives and time frames to sustainability problems. Moreover, it needs to engage with people outside academia to integrate the best available knowledge on real life practices and to get an understanding on values, norms and preferences guiding the decisions made in everyday life.

Design principle III:  Co-creation of research among scientists and stakeholders

Increase in knowledge does not correlate with change of actions. To boost transformation, research should be co-created from the beginning to the end of research project together with stakeholders. Co-creation of research refers to a joint framing of research problems, questions and co-production of knowledge among researchers and stakeholders. Particularly, researchers and scientist should collaborate to create impact together and draft, for example, policy recommendations together. Co-creation aims for knowledge that answers to stakeholders needs, that is credible and useful for them. Co-creation also enforces the capabilities of stakeholders to understand research and research results and leads to easier communication of results.

For more, see the presentation:
Iina Koskinen: Developping a transdisciplinary research project: case from Failand to Winland