A revised version of this Working Paper has been published as:
Katherine Mattor, Michele Betsill, Ch’aska Huayhuaca, Heidi Huber-Stearns, Theresa Jedd, Faith Sternlieb, Patrick Bixler, Matthew Luizza, Antony S. Cheng. 2014. Transdisciplinary research on environmental governance: A view from the inside. Environmental Science & Policy, 42: 90–100.
The skills to work effectively across boundaries form a set of critical capacities for upcoming generations of researchers focused on complex social-ecological systems, but the acquisition of such skills remains extemporaneous and generally unsupported within traditional disciplinary academia. In an effort to contribute to improved systematization and coordination of research across disciplinary boundaries, we reflect upon our experience participating in a two-year transdisciplinary research initiative designed to address the changing nature of environmental governance in the Intermountain West region of the United States. We illustrate concepts drawn from Mollinga’s (2010) notion of “boundary work,” including: the importance of our boundary setting; our common language and boundary concepts adapted from the Earth System Governance Project science plan; and the development of a shared research framework as a boundary object, which facilitated conceptualization of the complexity of environmental governance in the region and guided our individual research projects. We conclude with reflections on the process of transdisciplinary work, emphasizing the importance of our external boundary setting, the role of funding, and the inexorable link between individual commitment and project success.
Elements of this Working Paper, as well as some of the case studies, were presented at the International Symposium on Society and Natural Resource Management conference in June 2013