Transdisciplinary research for water management

Transdisciplinary research aims to provide solutions to socially relevant problems. This often requires collaboration between researchers from multiple disciplines – for example, from the social and natural sciences. Transdisciplinary research also involves collaboration between researchers and research users, enabling mutual learning between all participants. These two elements (interdisciplinary and participatory research) can increase the likelihood of the knowledge produced being relevant and usable, and taken up by research users to address real-world sustainability challenges. However, some questions remain unanswered. What are the impacts of transdisciplinary research? Does it really create more useful knowledge? And does the extra investment translate into real-world benefits?

This project:

  • evaluated the use of a transdisciplinary research approach in Western Australia’s Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) catchment
  • contributed to water management in the Fitzroy catchment by facilitating co-production and integration of knowledge generated by four research projects
  • contributed to addressing complex sustainability issues in northern Australia and beyond by designing an evaluation framework that can be used in future research.

Project outputs

  • an evaluative approach that can be used by researchers and funders in assessing the impacts of transdisciplinary research
  • a scientific publication identifying circumstances under which the additional benefits of transdisciplinary research are sufficient to outweigh the additional costs associated with this research mode
  • a report with recommendations to support decisions about when and how to use a transdisciplinary approach in research, and on the evaluation of transdisciplinary research projects.

  • Environmental field work on the Fitzroy River, photo Leah Beesley.
  • The Fitzroy River's Geikie Gorge, photo Michael Douglas.
  • Fitzroy River, photo Michael Douglas.
  • Camballin Barrage on the Fitzroy River, photo MIchael Douglas.