Integrating disciplinary approaches in health sustainable development, resource- and conflict management - 2 ECTS

Human, animal and environmental health are inextricably linked. Understanding causes and impacts of global challenges such as, for example, the spread of infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, obesity or malnutrition, requires synergetic and multiple scientific approaches. Moreover, identifying sustainable solutions requires an active involvement of societal actors, including citizens. Interdisciplinary approaches have been widely discussed, yet are rarely implemented in practice as this requires scientists not only to collaborate, but also to integrate information (theories, concepts, techniques, tools, data, and perspectives) or to address challenges that are beyond the scope of a single discipline. Even more scarce are trans-disciplinary approaches in which researchers do not only contribute to their unique expertise but move beyond their own discipline to capture complexity and create new intellectual spaces leading to new holistic solutions.

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Tue 8 January 2019 until Tue 29 January 2019

Venue Leeuwenborch, building number 201
Hollandseweg 1
6706 KN Wageningen

    Due to time and resource constraints PhD research projects usually cannot follow such a broad approach. Still, learning to reflect on a PhD research project from an integral perspective is crucial for becoming able to identify and exploit synergies between complementary disciplines, their theories, methods and working styles. Furthermore, it facilitates a convincing communication about research concepts, approaches and results with colleagues and other target audiences outside one’s core discipline(s). Ultimately, an integral approach to research stimulates interdisciplinary collaboration in and outside academia, which is essential for developing long-term strategies and solutions related to human, animal and environmental health and sustainable development. Integral theory offers a framework that allows positioning our (disciplinary) scientific concepts, methods and results into a broader framework of integral science (e.g. Brown, 2005; Lundi, 2010; Esbjörn-Hargens and Zimmerman, 2009). In particular, it offers a meta theory that draws from as many fields of knowledge and sources of knowledge as possible as a point of departure for developing integral approaches in health, sustainable development, resource- and conflict management. Using this framework, the aims of this interdisciplinary window are:
    (i) to create awareness on complementary perspectives, approaches and working styles in research projects addressing issues of health, sustainable development, resource- and conflict management
    (ii) to identify and apply tools that facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration between PhDs, external stakeholders and citizens within these domains.


    In total there will be four meetings of 4 hours. PhD candidates will be asked to do (interdisciplinary) group work to prepare for the next meeting.

    Learning outcomes

    After successfully completing this PhD course, students will be able to:

    • To understand and reflect on key concepts of multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary research, the worldview (paradigm), and integral theory;
    • To team up and reflexively apply integral theory to selected contemporary societal cases related to health and sustainable development;
    • To learn about and practise interdisciplinary communication in a mixed audience to facilitate discussion and critical reflection on the potential and the challenges of interdisciplinary research;
    • To create an interdisciplinary overview matrix of the own PhD research from an integral viewpoint in order to identify and synthesize perspectives, methods and stakeholder groups that are relevant but complementary to the current (disciplinary) focus of the own PhD project.

    Target group

    PhD candidates from all disciplines and all stages of their PhD project.

    Assumed Prior Knowledge

    None. Interest in and affinity with interdisciplinary research is recommended.


    Participation in course meetings, submission of homework assigments.


      The sessions are each Tuesday morning and Thursday morning from 9.00-11.00 hrs

      08 January Afternoon
      15 January Afternoon
      22 January Afternoon
      29 January Afternoon


      Meeting 1:
      - Introduction to interdisciplinary approaches and integral theory;
      - Short presentations of participants’ PhD projects
      - Reflection and discussion on the applicability of the integral approach to the PhD projects.
      Working methods:
      - Lecture, class and group discussions.
      Homework: Selection of 3-5 studies (scientific papers, reports, policy documents, databases) related to the own research topic but approaching the topic from a different scientific perspective. Prepare list of observations and questions regarding, for example, the aims, methods, terminology, outcomes, target audience, writing style etc. of the selected studies as input to meeting 3.

      Meeting 2:
      - 1-2 selected case studies presented by course lecturers, representing well-known events/problems related to health and sustainable development which typically involve several scientific disciplines and stakeholder groups, but where it is also obvious that decision-making has NOT been based on an integral approach. Examples are the EHEC crisis, or the process of decision-making on Glyphosate. If possible, 1-2 stakeholders representing a specific perspective (e.g. risk assessment, health treatment, economics, policy making, public communication, conflict management) will be invited.
      - Practical exercise on competences required in interdisciplinary research.
      Working methods:
      - Presentation
      - Interactive discussion rounds

      Meeting 3:
      - Discussion of home work and of observations and questions that course participants consider most relevant for working in an interdisciplinary manner on their own PhD research and in science in general;
      - Development of a general matrix of perspectives, approaches and working styles that course participants consider most relevant in an interdisciplinary scientific environment.
      Working methods:
      - Interactive group discussions using the Structured Interview Matrix (SIM) facilitation technique approach, which has been widely used to accommodate the voices of all participants and to generate common grounds for interdisciplinary work on the own research projects (O’Sullivan et al., 2014).
      Preparation of a draft matrix on all possible research perspectives related to the own PhD topic, using the knowledge, reflection insights and competences acquired in meetings 1-3. Participants will provide peer feedback to each other within groups.

      Meeting 4:
      - Development of a matrix unravelling interdisciplinary perspectives related to the own PhD topic, including the involved stakeholder groups, working techniques, and key competences required.
      - Synthesis discussion on interdisciplinary perspectives in PhD research and the positioning of the own research project within the developed matrix.
      Working methods:
      - Peer feedback
      - Interactive discussions
      - Visualization techniques


      Brown, B.C. (2005), J. of Inetgr. Theory and Pract. 1(2), 1-39.
      Esbjörn-Hargens, S. & Zimmerman, M.E. (2009), Integr. Inst. Res. Paper 2, 1-14.
      Lundy, T. (2010), Global Health Promotion, 17(3), 44–53.
      O’Sullivan, T., Corneil, W., Kuziemsky, C.E., Toal-Sullivan, D. (2014), . Systems Res. and Beh. Sci. 32, 616-628.

      Course fee

      WASS, PE&RC and WIMEK/SENSE PhDs with TSP 150 euro
      a) all other PhD candidates, b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools 300 euro
      All others 450 euro

      NB1: for some courses, PhD candidates from other WUR graduate schools with a TSP are also entitled to a reduced fee. Please consult your Education/PhD Programme Coordinator for more information

      Cancellation conditions:

      The participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 month prior to the start of the course.

      The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

      The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.