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Communication processes in intercultural transdisciplinary research: framework from a group perspective

  • Jue WangEmail author
  • Thomas Aenis
  • Tuck Fatt Siew
Original Article

Abstract

Transdisciplinary research (TDR) that aims at the co-production of knowledge in the process of addressing sustainability problems requires effective communication among scientists and practitioners. In international TDR cooperation, it is recognized that particular attention must be paid to intercultural communication, to enhance knowledge integration and mutual learning. However, there is little knowledge about the role of communication in TDR and how TDR group members with diverse socio-cultural backgrounds can communicate effectively. In this paper, we present a theoretical analysis on transdisciplinary communication, with a particular focus on group dynamics and intercultural communication. On this basis, we develop a framework for TDR communication that encompasses topics and indicators for successful communication. This framework was applied in a Chinese–German project conducted in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China, to guide the transdisciplinary communication processes. We focused on the development of trusted relationships among scientists and practitioners in the TDR team, while simultaneously accomplishing various tasks, such as problem framing and scenario development. In this study, we provide insights into intercultural communication in TDR, particularly in the context of Europe–Asia transdisciplinary cooperation. Our findings show that power relations, translator roles and researchers’ mindsets influence effective communication and successful knowledge integration. In the future, additional attention should be paid to improving the supporting system and institutional arrangement for transdisciplinary communication.

Keywords

Communication framework Transdisciplinary research Stakeholder Intercultural communication Group dynamics 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [FKZ: 01 LL 0919] under the Sustainable Land Management program.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural SciencesHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Physical GeographyGoethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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