Scientific article
Open access

Designing Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research on Mountains: What Place for the Unexpected?

Published inMountain Research and Development, vol. 40, no. 4, p. D10-D20
Publication date2020

In recent decades, research on mountains has become more inter- and transdisciplinary, but a greater effort is needed if such research is to contribute to a societal transformation toward sustainability. Mountain research centers are a crucial actor in this endeavor. Yet, the literature has not paid sufficient attention to how these centers should (re-)design inter- and transdisciplinary research. In this study, we explored this question with a self-reflexive approach. We analyzed the first 15 months of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Mountain Research (CIRM) of the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) through qualitative data collected via interviews and observation. We used a simple model of inter- and transdisciplinarity at the organizational level of a research center. Special attention was devoted to the individual and collective ability to exploit the unexpected (serendipity). Our results indicate an interdependency between the coconstruction of research objects and the creation of integrative partnerships. They also shed light on the types of institutional resources and integrative methodologies that enhance inter- and transdisciplinary research, as well as their challenges. Our experience shows that implementing inter- and transdisciplinarity requires deep changes in research evaluation procedures, research funding policies, and researchers themselves. Serendipity is in turn shown to play an important role in inter- and transdisciplinarity due to its potential to change the research process in creative ways. We speculate that serendipity offers unique opportunities to capitalize on hidden resources that can catalyze a radical transformation of mountain researchers, research organizations, and society in the face of unprecedented global change.

  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Mountain
  • Research
  • Research center
  • Transformation
  • Sustainability
  • Selfreflexivity
  • Serendipity
  • CIRM
Citation (ISO format)
DARBELLAY, Frédéric. Designing Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research on Mountains: What Place for the Unexpected? In: Mountain Research and Development, 2020, vol. 40, n° 4, p. D10–D20. doi: 10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-20-00036.1
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0276-4741

Technical informations

Creation04/12/2021 7:14:00 AM
First validation04/12/2021 7:14:00 AM
Update time03/16/2023 1:34:41 AM
Status update03/16/2023 1:34:40 AM
Last indexation01/17/2024 2:35:54 PM
All rights reserved by Archive ouverte UNIGE and the University of GenevaunigeBlack