Ethics in Transdisciplinary Research: Reflections on the Implications of ‘Science with Society’

  • Jessica CockburnEmail author
  • Georgina Cundill


Transdisciplinarity is a reflexive, participatory research approach that addresses societal problems by transcending the boundaries between science and society through knowledge co-production. Research ethics clearance procedures are often out of step with such forms of engaged research. Through a case study of a transdisciplinary PhD, we share our experiences of the ethical challenges involved in research that takes place beyond the bounds of procedural ethics. Our research aims to co-produce knowledge on environmental stewardship. In this chapter we consider what strategies transdisciplinary scholars can employ to ensure they fulfil the requirements of ethical research in the absence of suitably aligned institutional processes, and what changes need to be made to research ethics clearance procedures to ensure they are able to account for transdisciplinary research.


Interdisciplinary Research Transdisciplinary Researchers Ethical Clearance Procedures Everyday Morality Ethical principlesEthical Principles 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to extend sincere thanks to our colleagues in the Rhodes University Transdisciplinary Research Group and in the Social-Ecological Systems Scholars network for reflective discussions, and for sharing their experiences on transdisciplinary research and ethics. We would also like to acknowledge the following funding sources: JC: NRF-DST Innovation Doctoral Scholarship and Rhodes University Henderson Scholarship; GC: National Research Foundation of South Africa, grant numbers: 93446 and 90694.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.International Development Research CentreOttawaCanada

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