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Leading Transdisciplinary Projects

This site presents a primer for prospective grantees or new awardees that provides advice on Leading Large Transdisciplinary Projects Addressing Social-Ecological Systems. This primer is based upon a workshops hosted by experienced USDA NIFA grantees.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture funds several large, coordinated projects to better understand the complexity and diversity of human-natural systems and the intended and unintended consequences of human actions. These large, social-ecological systems (SES) projects require research and action that involve teams of physical, natural, and social scientists crossing disciplinary boundaries (interdisciplinary) and deeply engaging stakeholders to define problems and find effective solutions (transdisciplinary). Successful efforts draw on specialized knowledge, interests, and skills of all participants.
Leaders of such large, transdisciplinary SES projects must be prepared to face a number of unique challenges. These challenges include: 1) managing a large number of people and interactions to achieve numerous, interrelated objectives; and 2) simultaneously managing the changing dynamics of multiple types of collaborations – from disciplinary to transdisciplinary – throughout the project life cycle.
The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) hosted a workshop for experienced directors of large SES projects in June 2016. Participants, led by USDA-NIFA grantees Drs. Sanford Eigenbrode, Lois Wright-Morton, and Tim Martin, offer their approaches to these challenges in a primer for prospective grantees or new awardees. This primer, Leading Large Transdisciplinary Projects Addressing Social-Ecological Systems, addresses the routine activities, day-to-day decisions, and leadership responsibilities that confront directors of large SES projects. The advice contained within this primer is intended to help current and future directors successfully meet the challenges and cope with the intensity of effort required to keep large collaborative teams functioning smoothly and effectively. 

View the primer             insights from the authors (videos)

For additional information, check out the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) program page.


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