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  • Association AffairsPacific Science Association

PSA Activities

A. PSA Attends Belmont Forum 2017 Asia Information Day

Following the 32nd International Council for Science (ICSU) General Assembly in Taipei in October 2017, the Belmont Forum hosted a two-day meeting at the same venue to identify and scope priorities for solutions-oriented global change research, in collaboration with regional stakeholders and communities. The goal of the meeting included how to increase the impact and relevance of scientific research and how to create linkages and synergies between international scientific activities and development activities, so that the Belmont Forum can be a more effective vehicle in the Asia-Pacific region.

PSA Executive Secretary Burke Burnett attended both the ICSU General Assembly and the two-day Belmont Forum meeting. The first day of the meeting consisted of panel discussions and presentations on regional projects supported by the Belmont Forum, as well as on the activities of Future Earth. Day Two of the meeting was composed of thematic presentations and open discussions.

"Transdisciplinary Research"

One key takeaway from the meeting was the increasing salience and importance of transdisciplinary science: a relatively new term that even its most ardent adherents acknowledge is somewhat unwieldy and nonintuitive. Transdisciplinary science has been formally defined as "research efforts that are conducted by investigators from different disciplines working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem."1 Many scientists have found this definition too abstract and less than helpful in understanding how it may inform new approaches to research.

Another, perhaps more helpful, definition of transdisciplinary science is simply "team science." A transdisciplinary approach to a research problem involves scientists from various [End Page 395] disciplines that are relevant to a given issue or problem. These scientists work outside their particular narrow field of expertise to understand the complexities of a problem, grapple with the "big picture" in which it is located, and come up with a new collaborative space that involves not just researchers but the eventual end users (or "consumers") of the research.2

This chart gives a succinct and helpful summary of the differences between transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary research.3

Trans/Multi / Inter-Disciplinarity: What's the Difference?
Transdisciplinary Research Multidisciplinary Research Interdisciplinary Research
Researchers from several disciplines collaborate and exchange information, alter their discipline-specific approaches, share resources, and work to understand the complexities and wider context of the problem or issue being studied. Integration of disciplines is integral to the research approach to facilitate a common scientific goal and maximize its relevance to other stakeholders in finding solutions to problems. Researchers from a variety of disciplines work together at some stages of a project, but each has separate questions, separate conclusions, and disseminate in different journals. Researchers interact with the goal of transferring knowledge from one discipline to another. Allows researchers to inform each other's work and compare individual findings.

The Belmont Forum and Future Earth are actively trying to engage scientists in transdisciplinary research that can enable more innovative and effective approaches to problems related to global change. Their presentations (and other presentations at the meeting) were very helpful in understanding the various concrete ways that these new methodologies are being tested and refined and illustrating how they offer great promise for science to better inform society in addressing what often seem to be intractable problems.

B. New PSA Website

PSA launched a new website in November 2017. The new site allows for scaling between different types of devices (for example, desktop, phone, and tablet browsers render websites differently owing to their different screen sizes). The last major refresh of the PSA website was in 2005. We hope to introduce new features to the site in the near future as well.

Prepared by Burke Burnett, PSA Executive Secretary


1. "Definitions." Harvard Transdisciplinary Center for Energetics and Cancer Center ( Accessed 1 February 2018.

2. "What is Transdisciplinary Research?" TREC Center, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis ( Accessed 1 February 2018.

3. Ibid. [End Page...