By Marta Olazabal
I have lived a great learning process through the very exciting material and knowledge transmitted by 10 trainers, the case studies, thoughts and questions of 23 trainees and other very interesting interventions and site visits organised by Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Barcelona Tech) and Barcelona City Council.
In order to be able to understand my learning process, first it would be fair to know a little bit of myself. I have a background on Environmental Engineering and a PhD on Land Economy. I am interested in exploring the new paradigm of urban policy and planning for climate change adaptation and in approaches that bridge science and policy in a context where uncertainty and knowledge co-production between scientists and stakeholders are key. My current research focuses on decision support and governance processes to achieve more resilient, sustainable and inclusive cities and departs from the fundamental idea of the significance of social learning approaches to face climate change.
When I saw the topic of the training school that Intrepid was offering and that it will be focus specifically on urban research and climate change, I thought it was a great opportunity first to (finally) learn about the differences among multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity and second, to understand how I am contributing to this field and how I could improve my future research under these terms. Luckily, I was selected to be part of this exciting adventure which, honestly, I did not know what to exactly expect from.
Each trainee was asked to bring a case study related to the topic of transdisciplinarity in urban research so we could have the opportunity to discuss the concepts, methods and ideas over our own experiments, results or experiences.
In my case, I brought a case study on the implementation of a participatory modelling tool based on cognitive mapping (fuzzy cognitive mapping, FCM) that allows the integration of different agents’ views each expressing particular knowledge or experience of a distinctive part of the system.
Through this experiment (yet unpublished), funded by the 7FP Project BASE – Bottom-up Adaptation Strategies for a sustainable Europe (Grant no. 308337), we analysed heatwave impacts in the urban environment of Madrid (Spain) and aimed to identify potential adaptation options. We interviewed 24 decision-makers and researchers with expertise in different sectors and collect individual maps that we combined in an aggregated map with the view of uncovering hidden knowledge on the system.
Through the training school I learnt that I am using a systems approach that supports transdisciplinary research. I am not implementing a transdisciplinary project because: (i) it has not been co-designed (ii) will not be integrated into society. For future research, in the case I would like to transform this idea into a transdisciplinary project, I intend to include a co-design phase so that the problem and approach is identified and defined collaboratively, and to validate the usability of the outputs for decision-making together with the participants of the experiment and other potential users.
Now I know what Transdisciplinarity means, when it starts and when it ends (if it should be ever ended). I know where my contribution stands, what I do and what I don’t. Transdisciplinarity is required in many, if not all, real-life (decision-making) processes and conflicts resolution. The range of methods, tools and approaches that could be used t is endless, but the motive and entreprise is only one.