DOI: 10.12924/cis2020.08010030 |Publication Date: 19 October 2020

Enabling Early Career Sustainability Researchers to Conduct Transdisciplinary Research: Insights from Austria

Oliver Gerald Schrot 1, * , Hanna Krimm 2 and Thomas Schinko 3
1 Faculty of Geo- and Atmospheric Sciences, Institute of Geography, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
2 alpS GmbH, Innsbruck, Austria
3 Risk and Resilience Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria
* Corresponding author
Abstract: Human influences on Earth's natural systems are accelerating, with anthropogenic climate and global change posing existential risks for mankind. To overcome the policy implementation gap in practice both collective and transformative actions for sustainability involving science, policy and society are urgently needed. In the realms of science, this relates to taking inter-and transdisciplinary research approaches to foster exchange and co-designing policy options between researcher, decision-makers and other societal stakeholders; however, such collaboration is often limited by time, funding and complexity constrains.
This paper recognises that particularly early career climate change and sustainability researchers are exposed to both the claim for and practical challenges of inter- and transdisciplinarity. For a first qualitative investigation of Austrian early career researchers’ preparedness for conducting participatory research with societal stakeholders, this study examines perspectives of twelve early career researchers participating in a young scientists' workshop.
Using a pre-post survey and analysing data by content, our findings indicate that workshop participants have to manage stakeholder processes directly after graduation and, due to a lack of methodological training, only use a small fraction of existing social science methods and participatory settings for stakeholder collaboration. To support other early career researchers and future students in Austria in developing strong inter-and transdisciplinary research skills, we highlight the added-value of integrating hands-on workshops with societal stakeholders, regular exchange of lessons learned and transdisciplinary lectures into university education. Offering more practice-oriented transdisciplinary learning activities during undergraduate education, like excursions and mini-projects in which students can develop and train participatory methods together with stakeholders under guidance, is believed to be a fruitful strategy in this context.

Keywords: climate change; early career; interdisciplinarity; research practice; stakeholders; sustainability; transdisciplinarity

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2012 - 2020 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published under a Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).