Leading Large Transdisciplinary Projects Addressing Social-Ecological Systems

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Oct 06, 2017
S. D. Eigenbrode, T. Martin, L. Wright Morton, J. Colletti, P. Goodwin, R. Gustafson, D. Hawthorne, A. Johnson, J. T. Klein, L. Mercado, S. Pearl, T. Richard, and M. Wolcott



Large SES projects typically address wicked problems, i.e. those involving complex systems with incomplete or apparently contradictory knowledge, stakeholders with divergent positions, and large economic or social consequences. These projects often encompass management challenges associated with natural-resource-based provisioning of food, energy, shelter and other ecosystem services. Such problems require research and action that involve teams of physical, natural, and social scientists crossing disciplinary boundaries (interdisciplinary) and deeply engage stakeholders to define problems and find effective solutions, (i.e. transdisciplinary). Successful efforts draw on specialized knowledge, interests, and skills of all participants. They are designed to be dynamic and responsive to changing conditions and they must integrate knowledge creation, education, and outreach. Although there is robust literature on how large integrated efforts can be designed and the theory behind transdisciplinary integration, there is a relative lack of resources to help the leadership address the practical challenges of executing this type of work. This primer addresses that gap, gathering the experience of successful directors of large SES projects in the form of practical advice for new and aspiring leaders of such projects.

Read the full primer here.


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