'The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 1, Number 1, May 2002
Jobst Conrad, Senior Researcher,
Environmental Policy Research Unit, Free University Berlin, Germany
Abstract: This paper describes and evaluates the feasibility of, and limitations to, the interdisciplinarity of two comparative international, multidisciplinary, problem and policy oriented social science research projects. These projects, entitled „Alternative uses for land and the new farm worker: segregation versus integration“ (1985 1987) and „Successful environmental management in European companies“ (1992 1995), involving 6-7 person years, were carried out for the EU Commission.
After conceptually clarifying some key theoretical terms, the empirical analysis investigates both projects with respect to their degree of interdisciplinarity. The analysis concerns the integration of natural and social sciences, their resulting interpretative, conceptual framework, and the theoretical basis of their policy recommendations.
It is found that although the projects clearly acknowledged the multidimensional (and multidisciplinary) character of research which involved questions and problems relating to both nature and society, neither project strove to become, nor achieved true interdisciplinarity in terms of frames of reference. Furthermore, neither project developed dynamic interactive conceptual models which could be used to provide an adequate explanation of successful environmental management, as was the original intention.
Key Words: Disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, problem oriented research, sustainability
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