Research Group Inter-/Transdisciplinarity

The Research Group Inter-/Transdisciplinary with its international and inter-university focus has been part of the Man-Society-Environment (MSE) Program since 2014. The group was founded in 1995 at the University of Bern and operated under the Interfaculty Co-ordination Centre for General Ecology until 2013. The group consists of researchers from different disciplines. The overarching goal of its work is to improve inter- and transdisciplinary processes. Its research has three complementary focal points: inter- and transdisciplinary processes in research and teaching, sustainability and consumption, as well as education and sustainable development.

Research on inter- and transdisciplinary processes in research and teaching

In interdisciplinary projects, researchers from various disciplines work together, whereas in transdisciplinary projects, researches from various disciplines work together with stakeholders. A rich body of practical knowledge as well as a growing research tradition has been built around the inter- and transdisciplinary field. Research tradition and practice are drifting away from each other. Our research takes on a broad perspective in an attempt to connect theory and practice, to bridge the gap between research and teaching and to take as many aspects of inter- and transdisciplinary work into account as possible. Our research focuses on questions such as the following:

  • What are the preconditions of inter- and transdisciplinary work and how can such preconditions be promoted?
  • What are the demands and requirements for inter- and transdisciplinary projects and what responsibility does management have in these projects? How can processes for consensus-building and synthesis-building be shaped?
  • How can the success of inter- and transdisciplinary projects be assessed adequately?

Research on sustainability and consumption

Individual consumption cannot be reduced to the procurement of goods but, rather, represents a complex system of transactions and structures that simultaneously present functional and symbolic aspects. The basic notion of “sustainability” is a suitable guiding principle for societal development, but only when it is understood in its whole complexity, when it is taken seriously and not reduced to individual factors. Human needs and visions for a good life are elements that link consumption and sustainability. Our research focuses on questions such as the following:

  • What role does “the good life” play in the idea of sustainability, how should a theory of “the good life” look for the context of sustainable development, and how could such a theory be supported by empirical research?
  • What exactly does sustainability mean in the context of consumption and how could sustainable consumption be realized? What is the potential of “consumption corridors” in this regard?

Research on education and sustainable development

Implementing sustainability in education systems means enabling people of all ages to play a critical role participating in and shaping processes of sustainable development. Learning is not limited to individuals but also takes place on an organizational and societal level. The sciences are being called upon to tackle questions regarding sustainable development. Knowledge on systems, aims and transformations, which would support individual and societal learning processes towards sustainable development, need to be established and made readily available. Our research focuses on questions such as the following:

  • Which competences enable people to play a critical role in the participation and shaping of sustainable development processes and how can these competences be encouraged?
  • Which reflection- and discussion-processes promote sustainable development in society and what are the content-related and methodological requirements of these processes?


Members at MSE:
Fürspr. Rico Defila, Deputy head RG Id/Td
Dr. Antonietta Di Giulio, Head RG Id/Td
Corinne Ruesch Schweizer

Members outside MSE:
Prof. em. Ruth Kaufmann-Hayoz (Emerita University of Bern, Zollikofen)
Dr. Michael Scheuermann (University of Freiburg i. Br., Germany)

Former Members:
Philippe Balsiger (today University of Erlangen-Nürnberg), Thomas Brückmann (today Fachstelle UND, Zürich), Marusa Dolanc (today Kindes- und Erwachsenenschutzbehörde (KESB)), Matthias Drilling (today FHNW), Christian Maurer (today University of Lausanne), Andrea Mordasini (today SBB), Markus Winkelmann (today ITAS, Karlsruhe)

Recent projects

  • "Reallabore vernetzen, verstehen, verstetigen" – Begleitforschung zum Programm "Reallabore, BaWü-Labs, für eine Forschung für Nachhaltigkeit in Baden-Württemberg" (2015-2019)
    Finanzierung: Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst (MWK) Baden Württemberg; Projektverantwortung: Fürspr. R. Defila, Dr. A. Di Giulio
  • Beschäftigungspraktische Anforderungen an Hochschulabgänger/innen im Zusammenhang mit Nachhaltiger Entwicklung (Dissertationsvorhaben Corinne Ruesch, seit 2013)
    Finanzierung: Eigenmittelprojekt

Activities and services

Activities and services in training, consulting and coaching focus on the management of inter- and transdisciplinary projects as well as interdisciplinary teaching.

The bibliography of questions on inter- and transdisciplinary practices, built by our research group, covers over 5000 titles and is available online.

Selected publications

Blättel-Mink B., Brohmann B., Defila R., Di Giulio A., Fischer D., Fuchs D., Gölz S., Götz K., Homburg A., Kaufmann-Hayoz R., Matthies E., Michelsen G., Schäfer M., Tews K., Wassermann S., Zundel S. (Syntheseteam des Themenschwerpunkts "Vom Wissen zum Handeln – Neue Wege zum nachhaltigen Konsum") (2013): Konsum-Botschaften. Was Forschende für die gesellschaftliche Gestaltung nachhaltigen Konsums empfehlen. Stuttgart: Hirzel Verlag. Konsum-Botschaften

Defila R., Di Giulio A. (Hrsg.) (2016): Transdisziplinär forschen – zwischen Ideal und gelebter Praxis. Hotspots, Geschichten, Wirkungen. Frankfurt a. M., New York: Campus Verlag. mehr

Defila R., Di Giulio A. (2015): Integrating knowledge: challenges raised by the "Inventory of Synthesis". In: Futures, 65, Special Issue Transdisciplinarity revisited, S. 123-135. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2014.10.013

Defila R., Di Giulio A. (2015): Methodische Gestaltung transdisziplinärer Workshops. In: Niederberger M., Wassermann S. (Hrsg.): Methoden der Experten- und Stakeholdereinbindung in der sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. S. 69-93. doi:10.1007/978-3-658-01687-6_5

Defila R., Di Giulio A. (1999): Evaluating Transdisciplinary Research – Evaluation Criteria for Inter and Transdisciplinary Research. In: Panorama. Special Issue 1/99. download

Defila R., Di Giulio A. (1999): Transdisziplinarität evaluieren – aber wie? Evaluationskriterien für inter- und transdisziplinäre Forschung. In: Panorama. Sondernummer 1999. download

Defila R., Di Giulio A., Drilling M. (2000): Leitfaden Allgemeine Wissenschaftspropädeutik für interdisziplinär-ökologische Studiengänge. Allgemeine Ökologie zur Diskussion gestellt. Bd. 4. Bern: IKAÖ. download

Defila R., Di Giulio A., Kaufmann-Hayoz R. (eds.) (2012): The Nature of Sustainable Consumption and How to Achieve it. Results from the Focal Topic "From Knowledge to Action – New Paths towards Sustainable Consumption". München: oekom.

Defila R., Di Giulio A., Kaufmann-Hayoz R. (Hrsg.) (2011): Wesen und Wege nachhaltigen Konsums. Ergebnisse aus dem Themenschwerpunkt "Vom Wissen zum Handeln – Neue Wege zum nachhaltigen Konsum". München: oekom.

Defila R., Di Giulio A., Scheuermann M. (2006): Forschungsverbundmanagement. Handbuch für die Gestaltung inter- und transdisziplinärer Projekte. Zürich: vdf Hochschulverlag an der ETH Zürich. mehr


Dr. Antonietta Di Giulio

Program MSE
University of Basel

Vesalgasse 1
CH-4051 Basel

Tel: +41 61 207 04 12