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Early career researchers in Asia encounter transdisciplinary research in the real world

Transdisciplinarity for Early careeR Researchers in Asia School, a five day intensive course for transdisciplinary research, took place in Kyoto bringing together 16 participants from the region.

From across different disciplines and countries, 16 early career researchers in Asia and Pacific gathered in Kyoto, Japan last December to participate in a capacity building course on co-creation and transdisciplinary research in practice. The short intensive course is called Transdisciplinarity for Early careeR Researchers in Asia School (TERRA School). The course was organized by the Research Institute for Humanity & Nature (RIHN) in collaboration with the Regional Centre for Future Earth in Asia and took place on 9-13 December 2019.

The TERRA School promotes and builds capacity for transdisciplinary research, where researchers and societal stakeholders work together to address challenges facing humanity in Asia. The school featured lectures, workshops and interactive sessions on theories and practice of transdisciplinary research (TD). It included structured learning on tools and methodologies used in TD (e.g. problem framing, stakeholder mapping, analysis and visioning) and introduction to the various transdisciplinary research conducted at RIHN. A field visit and interaction with local stakeholders in Kameoka City, Kyoto provided on the ground exposure to participants of actual transdisciplinary projects.

View the TERRA School 2019 Program (pdf).

The TERRA School is characterized by its rich variety of case studies on TD research. The research introduced at the course varied from town-making in a local municipality to biodiversity-driven nutrient cycling in a watershed, and covered diverse topics including the following:

  • Bridging tools/mediating strategies, entry points to engage stakeholders
  • Process of stakeholder engagement
  • Collaborative processes in vision setting with stakeholders
  • Co-design of agenda setting and research priorities with stakeholders

The intensive course featured ample group work throughout the program to enable participants to gain hands-on experience of using tools and theories relevant to TD that were introduced during the course. Towards the end of the course, the participants did a group-based exercise in developing TD project ideas. Applying what they learned from the preceding sessions, each group managed to identify stakeholders in the real-world for the issue they selected, develop research questions, and explain how the research addressing the research questions would lead to the envisioned real-world changes.

Photo: Presenting the output of the group work in the plenary. Questions and feedback from other groups helped refine the project concept.


Photo: Output of group workshops

A highlight of the course was a field visit to Kameoka, a suburban city of Kyoto, to have a glimpse of collaborative relationships between researchers and societal partners. Participants met with local partners of RIHN’s transdisciplinary research project FEAST. FEAST works towards building civic food networks in Kameoka City and its partners include local organic farmers, municipal government officers, community entrepreneurs and more. Through direct and rich interaction, the participants of the TERRA School had a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ diverse values and reflected on researchers’ roles for engagement and collaboration.

Photo: KATAMOTO Mitsuhiro, a new entry organic farmer in Shino Town, talked about challenges and opportunities of his work to the participants.


Photo: Participants listened to talks of FEAST members and their local partners.

The TERRA School is envisioned to be a cultivation encounter, aimed at creating awareness of what transdisciplinarity can offer and the challenges involved in its implementation. The School hopes to inspire young researchers to sustainability issues through transdisciplinary research.


January 27, 2020


Future Earth Staff Member



Call for participants: TERRA School 2022

Early-career Researchers in Asia Learn Transdisciplinarity

Call for participants: TERRA School 2021