University of Évora 1st Conference on Transdisciplinarity

The ITD Alliance members, MED – Mediterranean Institute for Agriculture, Environment and Development and TdLab, joined forces with the Instituto de Investigação e Formação Avançada (Institute for Research and Advanced Training) of the University of Évora, in order to promote transdisciplinarity in the University of Évora 1st Conference on Transdisciplinarity.

The conference took place on the 3rd of October of 2023 in Palácio do Vimioso, Évora, Portugal. The event was attended by around 60 participants who were welcomed by the rector of Evora University and the IFFA director.

Guest speaker Christian Pohl, from Td Lab at ETH Zurich, initiated the discussion with a presentation on “Implementing Transdisciplinarity in a University Setting,” starting his intervention with the framework of what in literature is considered transdisciplinarity.

Following the initial introduction, Christian Pohl explained the TdLAB’s approach to transdiciplinarity, with a specific focus on problem-solving, and shared several examples of projects, namely on how to promote evidence-based dialogue on trade-offs in wicked problems (synthesis of knowledge for policy advise) or on how to put sustainable development into practice (Juapark Aargau as real-world lab for sustainable development). These projects were developed by students in the mandatory course on the Bachelor’s program in Environmental Sciences. In the first semester, students analyze a case, and in the second semester, they identify problems, develop solutions, and test measures. Throughout this process, stakeholders and practical knowledge are integrated into the discussion to bridge the gap between theory and real-world application. At the course’s conclusion, students present their solutions to stakeholders, lecturers, and their peers.

In this context, Christian Pohl emphasized the importance of adapting transdisciplinary teaching to the appropriate educational level and stressed the need for a long-term perspective when designing and implementing such courses.

After the guest speaker presentation, a variety of transdisciplinary projects at Évora University were introduced, covering a range of subjects including fire management, urban regeneration, preservation of archaeological artifacts, or blotting sands in manuscript archives. While these topics may seem unrelated, they all share a common goal: the integration of diverse knowledge to identify problems and seek for solutions.

To put transdisciplinarity into action and encourage the exchange of ideas, a World Café discussion was organized to delve into the teaching and research of transdisciplinarity at the higher education level. Participants were divided into groups, where they shared insights on the advantages of transdisciplinarity, the challenges associated with implementing it at Évora University, and strategies for enhancing its implementation.

The University of Évora 1st Conference on Transdisciplinarity was concluded with a plenary discussion concerning the outcomes of the World Café exercise.

A comprehensive report summarizing the key findings and conclusions will be made available shortly.