Enhancing the robustness of transdisciplinarity for climate services


Room S16


Dragana Bojovic (Spain) 1; Marta Terrado (Spain) 1; Isadora Christel (Spain) 1; Asuncion Lera St. Clair (Norway) 1

1 - Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC)

Climate services is a fast-growing research field, supporting the transformation of vast and scattered climate data into knowledge that can support climate change adaptation. In order to accomplish this, it is urgent to disrupt traditional knowledge production, where the different scientific disciplines are separated from knowledge users, as such dichotomy is incompatible with the climate services paradigm. We need a coordinated agenda to move towards demand-driven and science-informed knowledge production. Applying lessons from social science research, in particular Max Neef’s conception of transdisciplinary, along with learnings from a set of EU-funded climate services projects, we suggest a dual transdisciplinary approach. This dual approach includes top-down science coordination and bottom-up common meaning and solution finding. This transdisciplinary approach, we argue, will enable more effective and usable climate services.

From the top-down perspective, scientists need to overcome compartmentalized concerns and disciplinary boundaries. Although highly necessary, this coordinated scientific effort of integration among disciplines„ interdisciplinarity, can just provide a partial overview of the knowledge required for climate services. Only by taking on board local knowledge, domain knowledge from different socio-economic sectors, and perspectives of policy-makers, can scientists gain a complete understanding. This integration of interdisciplinarity with other non-scientific knowledge sources is what moves us towards transdisciplinarity. The bottom-up perspective enables valuing and integrating stakeholders’ needs, decision making contexts, and interests at stake, and defining common values and goals for the future.

Our experience from EU-funded projects PRIMAVERA, S2S4E, APPLICATE, MED-GOLD and EUPORIAS, shows that the climate services field is moving in this direction. Namely, the projects comprise different scientific disciplines, while knowledge co-production with users has become a well accepted concept. Still, this does not necessarily mean that we have achieved full interdisciplinarity in these teams, nor overcome climate scientists’ narrow perception of users. We need more sophisticated social science tools to analyse and improve transdisciplinarity in climate services.

We applied Max-Neef’s (2005) four levels of transdisciplinarity to give robustness to climate services transdisciplinary work. The four levels „from empirical, over pragmatic and normative, to the value level„can be recognised in most of the projects we have analysed. However, coordination among these levels requires improvement. Collaboration between scientific teams and the involvement of stakeholders in each of these levels will demand more efforts. In particular, dismantling the term ‘users’ and grasping the heterogeneity of stakeholders and the array of the knowledge they can provide is a quest for climate services providers.