becoming a transdisciplinarian

I got the idea for this blog after writing a few articles on linked-in and theconversation.com, as well as having undertaken a number of years researching neglected tropical diseases in the, er, tropics. During that time my own thoughts have evolved and I have found many times that significant questions remain after undertaking any one specific piece of research. These questions may not be answerable within any one particular domain of enquiry, and I have sought to collaborate across disciplines and sectors in order to fill some of those knowledge gaps. Sometimes it has worked, in other cases the ideas remain but the funding is still absent.

I have sat in meetings where academics are accused of still being sat in their ivory tower, or atop a pile of books saying things like ‘I describe the world, you change it’ as they look down at an NGO practitioner. That is not the academy to which I belong. I work for a well-known University based in the UK. I have never lived in the tropics nor do I have any right to dictate policy, behaviour, attitudes, beliefs or lifestyles there or anywhere else. I do have a background of working in tropical countries, alongside colleagues from those countries with whom I share knowledge and ideas.  This blog is an extension of those conversations and will contain a mixture of text, photos, diagrams, cartoons, infographics, video, the occasional soundbite, commentary, exasperation. I hope it brings us closer together, or at least gives us all reason to agree that the way to tackle complex challenges is to become a   ***  transdisciplinarian  ****

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I am an epidemiologist based at a UK Higher Education establishment (Durham University, if you are interested). My research interests are primarily within the domain of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). I believe that the only way we can effectively tackle complex problems affecting populations living in tropics and sub-tropics is through trans-disciplinary collaboration. My working definition of transdisciplinary is undertaking research alongside so-called 'stakeholders' - groups and individuals who do not call themselves 'researchers' but whose experiences and knowledge can be used to great effect when combined with the experiences and knowledge of the research community. You can read my online CV at the link below.

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