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Eval Program Plann. 2007 Nov;30(4):325-38. Epub 2007 Aug 19.

Measuring societal effects of transdisciplinary research projects: design and application of an evaluation method.

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Institute for Environmental Decisions, Natural and Social Science Interface (NSSI), ETH Zurich, Universitätsstrasse 22, ETH Zentrum CHN, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.


Most Transdisciplinary Research (TdR) projects combine scientific research with the building of decision making capacity for the involved stakeholders. These projects usually deal with complex, societally relevant, real-world problems. This paper focuses on TdR projects, which integrate the knowledge of researchers and stakeholders in a collaborative transdisciplinary process through structured methods of mutual learning. Previous research on the evaluation of TdR has insufficiently explored the intended effects of transdisciplinary processes on the real world (societal effects). We developed an evaluation framework for assessing the societal effects of transdisciplinary processes. Outputs (measured as procedural and product-related involvement of the stakeholders), impacts (intermediate effects connecting outputs and outcomes) and outcomes (enhanced decision making capacity) are distinguished as three types of societal effects. Our model links outputs and outcomes of transdisciplinary processes via the impacts using a mediating variables approach. We applied this model in an ex post evaluation of a transdisciplinary process. 84 out of 188 agents participated in a survey. The results show significant mediation effects of the two impacts "network building" and "transformation knowledge". These results indicate an influence of a transdisciplinary process on the decision making capacity of stakeholders, especially through social network building and the generation of knowledge relevant for action.

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