The theoretical development of Transdisciplinarity as a research approach opens up new possibilities for scientists to contextualise their research. A characteristic of transdisciplinary reflection is its effort to establish epistemological and philosophical commonalities and differences in a move beyond disciplines and in interaction with society.

Transdisciplinarity in this regard established a challenging theoretical foundation. This includes a framework of three axioms (pillars) indicating three levels of understanding: Reality (ontological axiom), the Middle Ground (logical axiom) and Complexity (complexity axiom) (Nicolescu, 2008). Axioms are not theorems and cannot be demonstrated; they have their roots in experimental data and theoretical approaches and their validity is judged by the results of their application. The notion of “results of application” points towards a possible transformation in the relevance of research in the field of Public Understanding of Science (PUS).

Further significant theoretical contributions in the field of Transdisciplinarity are made by Cilliers (1998) who posed that in Transdisciplinarity we face two distinct epistemological issues – complicated systems (eg. computers) and complexity (eg. the brain) where, as a result of self-organisation, we encounter emergent properties. Understanding the significant differentiation between the offering of science (complexity) and the application of technology (complicated) within society(s) could lead to a strategic interrogation of the intellectual role of communicating science.

This paper will discuss the theoretical contribution of Transdisciplinarity as far as it provides an exiting challenge for researchers in the field of Public Understanding of Science (PUS) to re-think the conceptual foundation of their work. Efforts by researchers in the field of PUS to move beyond treating society as statistical aggregates have recently accentuated the need for the development of a more theoretical understanding in this field of research. Issues ranging from methodological challenges posed by the complexities of evaluating large-scale survey-based scientific collaborations to recent acknowledgement of the role played by a society’s worldview in their interaction with science could be addressed by considering some of the ideas introduced by Transdisciplinarity.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Building a relationship between transdisciplinarity and the public understanding of science (pus)

Hester Plessis   Associate researcher, SeTAR Centre, Faculty of Science, University of Johannesburg

The theoretical development of Transdisciplinarity as a research approach opens up new possibilities for scientists to contextualise their research. A characteristic of transdisciplinary reflection is its effort to establish epistemological and philosophical commonalities and differences in a move beyond disciplines and in interaction with society.

Transdisciplinarity in this regard established a challenging theoretical foundation. This includes a framework of three axioms (pillars) indicating three levels of understanding: Reality (ontological axiom), the Middle Ground (logical axiom) and Complexity (complexity axiom) (Nicolescu, 2008). Axioms are not theorems and cannot be demonstrated; they have their roots in experimental data and theoretical approaches and their validity is judged by the results of their application. The notion of “results of application” points towards a possible transformation in the relevance of research in the field of Public Understanding of Science (PUS).

Further significant theoretical contributions in the field of Transdisciplinarity are made by Cilliers (1998) who posed that in Transdisciplinarity we face two distinct epistemological issues – complicated systems (eg. computers) and complexity (eg. the brain) where, as a result of self-organisation, we encounter emergent properties. Understanding the significant differentiation between the offering of science (complexity) and the application of technology (complicated) within society(s) could lead to a strategic interrogation of the intellectual role of communicating science.

This paper will discuss the theoretical contribution of Transdisciplinarity as far as it provides an exiting challenge for researchers in the field of Public Understanding of Science (PUS) to re-think the conceptual foundation of their work. Efforts by researchers in the field of PUS to move beyond treating society as statistical aggregates have recently accentuated the need for the development of a more theoretical understanding in this field of research. Issues ranging from methodological challenges posed by the complexities of evaluating large-scale survey-based scientific collaborations to recent acknowledgement of the role played by a society’s worldview in their interaction with science could be addressed by considering some of the ideas introduced by Transdisciplinarity.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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