Chapter 4: Implementing transdisciplinary research partnerships
At least since the 1970s, policy makers and science officials have taken steps to promote participatory methods for sustainability research (Elzinga, 2008). At that time, public participation gained attention through studies on technology assessment, risk analysis and the formulation of science and technology policy. Support for participatory methods in large-scale research programmes emerged only in the 1990s, however. This was largely as part of an attempt to use new methods to tackle mounting social inequality and ecological sustainability problems. In this context, universities, communities and researchers initiated major research partnerships in various fields of research, such as environmental health, urban and agricultural landscape planning, and the social economy (Wallerstein and Duran, 2010; Enengel et al., 2012; Hall and MacPherson, 2011). Prominent examples discussed in this book illustrating this trend are the partnership between the city of Tokyo and its university for research into climate change initiatives (see also section 5.2.3 below) and the use of deliberative sustainability impact assessment methods in pilot projects throughout the world (see section 3.2.2). Scholars of social innovation have widely documented the positive role of these participatory and collaborative methods for implementing transdisciplinary modes of research (Smith et al., 2010; Baker and Mehmood, 2014). In particular, as will be illustrated below, results of participatory methods seem especially promising for understanding and implementing transition processes to more sustainable societies.