Methods for trans- and interdisciplinary research
Target group:
Early-career researchers, Students
in presence
Event type:
Winter/Summer School
with costs
ISST/Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC); Center for Technology and Society, (ZTG)/Technische Universität Berlin
Contact person:
Annabell Lamberth (ZTG):

About the summer school

We live in a world in transformation in which we are faced with complex global problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, hunger and social inequality. The urgent need for a sustainable transformation forces us to take decisions in situations of uncertainty and to continuously adapt our societal strategies.

As professionals, as researchers, and ultimately as citizens we want to embrace this process of transformation. We need to be able to design, build, create, but also to listen, observe and understand to make sustainability changes happen. A disciplinary approach will not be enough to solve the complex problems we are faced with in the 21st century. Academia does not have all the answers, neither does politics, economy or civil society. We rather need a collaborative endeavour to be able to reach a truly sustainable society.

Transdisciplinary research and practice is an approach that allows to bring together different perspectives from science and society and to catalyse the solution of real-world problems. In the summer school we want to transmit the basics of co-producing knowledge, co-designing solutions, and co-evaluating the results of such research practices to Master and PhD students from technologically-oriented disciplines (e.g. engineering, planning, environmental studies) as well as from other fields (e.g. social sciences). To ensure the link to the ‘real-world’, we will apply what we learn to sustainability problems in the region of Alt Empordá, Spain.

Aim of the course

The aim of the summer school is to gain insights into the basics and challenges of transdisciplinary research and practice. We want to convey central know-how of how to plan a transdisciplinary project in different steps and to gain experiences with carrying out methods for transdisciplinary research.

Our programme includes:

  • enable students to contribute with their perspective to joint problem formulation and research questions for complex problems   

  • facilitating mutual understanding of societal problems through better observing and pursuing the situations faced (inter- and transdisciplinary exchange)

  • empowering students with tools and methods for collaborative work along the set-up of a transdisciplinary research project

  • reflecting on whom to involve at which stage of the project, actor constellations as well as possible impacts of the developed solutions

  • sharing your own experiences with transdisciplinary research and benefit from mutual exchange 

Case study in focus: Alt Empordà (Catalonia), a disputed land. Land use conflicts in times of climate change

It is said that whoever sets foot in the Alt Empordà always comes back. This is true at least for many wetland birds that make a stop in their migration in the protected areas of the region. It is also true for many tourists who find the flat landscapes, the fairly unspoilt coastline and the navigation in the depths of the Pyrenees Mountain range an ideal place to return to. These are some of the competing land uses in the Alt Empordà area.

The protected land in the area is close to 50% (preservation-conservation-protection-custody levels) which leads to conflicts over land use in agriculture and tourism. Agriculture includes rainfed vineyards and olive trees, irrigated fruit trees and orchards, as well as livestock. The conflicts with tourism are related to water management and maintaining protected areas. The urban area growth, highly related to tourism speculation, has largely been stopped by informed activism platforms like SOS Costa Brava (in Catalan). The more recent conflict concerns offshore wind energy. Six offshore wind projects are competing in the Gulf of Roses, of which one, or at most two, will win the public tender that the Spanish government plans to hold in 2024. The best known is the Tramuntana Park, which consists of an initiative to install a large-scale 500 MW offshore wind farm in the maritime strip that has attracted criticism from local administrations, activists and citizens. During the summer school we will use this case of land use conflicts exemplarily to train methods of formulating and analysing real world problems in close exchange with regional actors.

Agenda of the course

Day 0 (09/14) Sat

Check-in between 4 pm and 5 pm
Getting to know each other
Introduction of the program and the institutions
Poster Session

Day 1 (09/15) Sun

Guided tour ino the natural reserve Aiguamolls de l’Empordà (wetlands)
Visit of San Martí d’Empuries and l’Escala

Day 2 (09/16) Mon

Disciplinarity and beyond | Introduction to Transdisciplinarity
Introduction to the regional land use challenges
Problem framing & Research questions

Day 3 (09/17) Tue

Introduction to Participation and Knowledge Integration
Experimenting with Methods
Developing a Roadmap

Day 4 (09/18) Wed

Soft skills for Transdisciplinary Resarch
Open Space
Excursion to Colera (land use conflict between preservation of the landscape and tourism)

Day 5 (09/19) Thu

Societal Impact of Transdisciplinary Research
Preparing the final presentation

Day 6 (09/20) Fri

Presentation of Results & Reflection (until 2 pm)

Target Group

Master students in their last course and early PhD students from European Universities are invited to join the summer school.

We aim at a mixed selection of participants: We especially encourage students from engineering, planning and environmental studies to join the summer school, but we also aim for a good mixture with other disciplines (e.g. social sciences or humanities).

Students can be granted 2 ECTS (pass/fail) for participating in the summer school and preparatory tasks. They are responsible for dealing with credit recognition at their home university individually.

General Information

The summer school will take place from September 14th to September 20th 2024 in Llançà, Alt Empordà, Catalonia, Spain. We expect around 20 international participants. The course will be conducted in English.
The attendance fee is 375 Euro.
Accommodation (shared room with other participants) and food at Alberg de Llançà will be provided. The participants have to cover the traveling costs to and from Llançà on their own.

The summer school wants to act sustainability-conscious: Please consider taking the train or bus!

How to apply

To apply for the summer school please fill out the following form: 

  • Short CV

  • Motivational video (1-2 minutes on what is your motivation to participate in the summer school? Do you already have experiences with inter- and transdisciplinarity? What do you expect from summer school? What is your envisioned topic for your PhD or master thesis?)

Deadline for the application has been extended until July 14th.

Payment of 375 Euro till July 19th.

Contact:  Annabell Lamberth,

Organisers and teaching team

The summer school on transdisciplinarity is a joint project by the University Research Institute for Sustainability Science and Technology (ISST) at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) at Technische Universität Berlin within the tdAcademy project. Both institutions are highly experienced in transdisciplinary sustainability research and methodological coaching. tdAcademy is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the FONA framework as part of its Social-Ecological Research funding priority.

The summer school is coordinated by:

MartinaSummerSchool   Martina Schäfer
is a biologist (University Stuttgart-Hohenheim), Dr. in Environmental Technology and Dr. in Sociology (TU Berlin). Since 2010, she is the Scientific Director of the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) of TU Berlin. Since 1996, she has coordinated inter- and transdisciplinary research projects at ZTG, in Sustainable Regional Development, Sustainable Consumption, Sustainable Land Use and methods of inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation. She has been carrying out various meta-projects on transdisciplinary research as TransImpact and tdAcademy. (More about Martina

GemmaSummerSchool   Gemma Tejedor 
is a junior lecturer at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) and a researcher at the Institute of Sustainability Science and Technology (ISST-UPC) on projects related to education for sustainability in higher engineering education. She holds a PhD in Sustainability from the UPC, focusing on transdisciplinary learning for sustainability in higher engineering education. She teaches sustainability at UPC and transdisciplinarity in the Master in Science and Technology of Sustainability, coordinated by the ISST-UPC. Gemma studied Agricultural and Forestry Engineering and worked as a forestry engineer for about 17 years, both in the public and private sector and in cooperation projects in Latin America. (More about Gemma

Gemma Tejedor and Martina Schäfer will be joined by further lecturers and inputs from various regional stakeholders.

Annabell Lamberth at ZTG supports the organisation of the summer school.