University of Saint JosephTransdisciplinary research key to solving complex global challenges

Transdisciplinary research key to solving complex global challenges

The University of Saint Joseph promotes knowledge exchange and dialogue between disciplines

Transdisciplinarity allows researchers to transcend traditional boundaries to solve complex real-world problems, says Adérito Fernandes-Marcos, Dean of the Doctoral School at the University of Saint Joseph in Macau. “By providing different perspectives on problems, they can reach holistic descriptive answers to comprehensive research questions.”

The problems facing humanity are increasingly complex, requiring nuanced and holistic solutions. However, the barriers between disciplines often lock knowledge into silos. Transdisciplinarity is crucial in transcending these boundaries.

The University of Saint Joseph’s (USJ) doctoral programme is designed to foster a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research environment. To do this, it adopts an umbrella structure under five academic fields: humanities, social sciences, administration, science, and information systems. Under that umbrella, the programme offers specialisations in nine areas of academic research, including global studies, psychology, education and science. Within each of those specialisations, the University offers doctoral programmes with specific research topics.

USJ’s research-orientated degrees aim to cultivate advanced theoretical and practical research skills in a specific area of knowledge while empowering doctoral candidates with a shared research language. “Common teaching and training modules are offered to all students across the different specialisations to promote an interchange among disciplines,” Fernandes-Marcos says.

Doctoral candidates all share modules in the foundation year, giving them a shared background in qualitative, quantitative and mixed-integrated research methods and strategies. “This allows for the establishment of a fertile ground where students adopt cross-discipline research themes that challenge the limits of traditional research methodology,” he says.

The doctoral programme aims to integrate the natural, social and health sciences in a humanities context and transcend their traditional boundaries, Fernandes-Marcos says. Such a system allows for a greater flow of ideas while researchers share a broad grounding in research methodology.

The University has several multidisciplinary laboratories, such as the Domingos Lam Centre for Research in Education, the Research Laboratory for Cultural Sustainability, and the Laboratory of Applied Neuroscience. “Cross-disciplinary or even transdisciplinary PhD projects appear from the research opportunities grounded in this multifaceted collaborative environment,” Fernandes-Marcos says.

Given its location in Macau, USJ is a hub of multicultural innovation. Formerly a Portuguese colony, the small seaside city is now a Special Administrative Region of China. USJ has “inherited centuries of Macau’s history in-between Asia, Europe and the Lusophone world, embracing more than 40 nationalities among professors, students and university staff”, Fernandes-Marcos says.

Such rich cultural diversity naturally lends itself to cultural exchange, and the University’s strong promotion of interdisciplinary dialogue ensures that its researchers foster new ways of approaching complex global problems, he says. “Transdisciplinarity is a way of seeing the world and questioning, that is, of doing research, which cannot be imposed but is gradually promoted and nurtured.”

Going forward, the university plans to increase the areas in which it offers its doctoral programme. It will do this “through close partnerships with leading universities and research institutes to increase the range of research opportunities in new specialisations, enhancing cross-discipline collaboration and paths for transdisciplinarity”, he says.

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