Transdisciplinary Research Home

New ways of thinking

Brock University is positioning itself to be a leader in transdisciplinary research. We’ve created five new transdisciplinary hubs. We have top-quality expertise. Our facilities are cutting edge. And our partnerships with the community enable us to work hand-in-hand in building a better world.

Great things are happening in this groundbreaking field.

What is transdisciplinary research?

Universities are typically structured into well-defined units – disciplines – that study and teach a particular subject area like “chemistry” and “biology.”

Disciplines tend to operate fairly independently, emphasizing depth over breadth of knowledge.

When disciplines start talking to one another, they look at a wider issue or problem and contribute their particular knowledge to that situation.

So, for example, the chemist could provide to the biologist details of molecular structures found in particular plants. Experts would exchange knowledge, or even work together on specific projects, but remain within their discipline, with their separate publications and conclusions.

But, as the name implies, transdisciplinary research transcends the boundaries of traditional disciplines; an entirely new way of addressing an issue arises. That leads to an entirely new field.

So, the chemist and the biologist together create a new process for synthesizing a substance – which involves modifying living organisms – that can be used for a wide range of purposes. They are now members of a field called “biotechnology,” which has elements of “chemistry” and “biology,” among other disciplines, but is an entirely separate area of research.

Why transdisciplinary research?

We live in a complicated world where change is ever-present. We need to be much more creative in how we view – and solve – problems. We need to be innovative. We need to be nimble.

That creativity, innovation and nimbleness comes from researchers talking to one another, building upon each other’s visions of how to build a better world around us. It’s much more than just the exchange of information. The sum is greater than its parts.

Transdisciplinary research builds upon and expands the work of disciplinary research, which remains an essential foundation of all inquiry.