Published November 18, 2023 | Version v1
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Producing knowledge about Water. Theoretical and methodological controversies, flows, meanders, rigidities, and the pursuit of "full transdiciplinarity" (in English, Portuguese, and Spanish)

  • 1. ROR icon Newcastle University
  • 2. ITESO, The Jesuit University of Guadalajara
  • 3. National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
  • 4. ROR icon Federal University of São Carlos
  • 5. National Scientific and Technical Research Council(CONICET), Argentina
  • 6. El Colegio de San Luis, San Luis Potosí, México
  • 7. ROR icon National University of General Sarmiento
  • 8. ROR icon National University of Mar del Plata
  • 9. ROR icon National Agricultural Technology Institute
  • 10. National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Argentina
  • 11. ETH, Switzerland


This issue of the WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network's Working Papers was organized

by members of the Network's Thematic Area 1, TA1 – X-disciplinarity in Research and

Action. TA1's membership includes academics, students, practitioners, representatives

of social movements and civil society organizations, among others. This TA has a

crosscutting function with interlinkages with the other Thematic Areas, of the Network,

as it focuses on theoretical and methodological aspects concerning the challenges and

opportunities facing our endeavours to produce knowledge about water from inter- and

trandisciplinary perspectives.

This particular issue offers significant contibutions that are relevant to all TA's but

some articles also address specific empirical examples that are connected with topics

covered by TA2 – Water and Megaprojects , TA3–, Urban Water Cycle and Essential Public

Services, TA6–Hydrosocial Basins, Territories, and Spaces,TA7– Art, Communication,

Culture, and Education, and TA8– Water-related Disasters. The issue features five articles, three in Spanish and the remaining two in English and

Portuguese, respectively.

Article 1, by Enrique Luengo González, addresses the challenges and obstacles

facing scientific institutions, particularly universities, to generate the conditions

required for developing, producing, and circulating knowledge that, beyond rhetorical

arguments and formal statements, actually embraces inter-and transdisciplinary

approaches. Among other issues, the author discusses the lack of institutional and

financial resources required for the promotion and strentghtening of these approaches

that seek to trascend monodisciplinary enclosures.The article explores the difficulties

facing universities to organize and sustain over time research teams dedicated to the

development of collective forms of knowledge informed by these approaches and

oriented at solving complex problems, involving a wide range of actors beyond the

academic sphere. Some of the obstacles identified are the lack of resources to support

the processes of mediation and negotiation to generate adequate conditions for the

production and dissemination of this type of knowledge, which is needed to provide

collective solutions to complex problems, including proposals for practical action. The

author argues that there is an urgent need to strengthen the capacities of universities 

to develop more situated, multidimensional, and complex approaches, and reorganize

their teaching and research structures to improve their ability to contribute towards the

development of more hopeful futures for human communities, particularly for the more

vulnerable sectors. The final comments highlight some promising examples suggesting

that inter-and transdisciplinary approaches have a fundamental role to play in the

contributions that universities can make in providing support for solving the highly

complex problems facing humakind in this historical stage. In Article 2, Norma Georgina Gutierrez Serrano discusses the design and

implementation of transdisciplinary research methods in the context of networks and

groups of researchers in Mexico. The author grounds the arguments in her experience

working closely with these research networks and groups which included following

up, and, occasionally participating in their activities. The article gives attention to

the diversity of forms and dynamics of the transdisciplinarity in research activities

practiced by these actors, and draws lessons about the interrelations that have allowed

these networks and groups to succeed in establishing the ground for transdiciplinary

research and also discussses how their practices also nurture the emergence of new

interrelations, thus contributing to the reproduction and expansion of transdisciplinary

approaches even in environments that not necessarily give priority or fully support these

initiatives. The author emphasises that a key principle in the creation and development

of transdisciplinary research activities is "thinking and acting with care", whereby

interrelations between researchers and other actors are characterized by the presence

of affective forms of human relations. In her view, transdisciplinary research is a "form

of producing commons".  Article 3, by Norma Valencio, addresses the contradictions and obstacles facing

research initiatives that seek to "trespass" monodisciplinary enclosures often fiercely

defended by institutional barriers, material interests and other hurdles. The author

draws her reflections from experiences characterizing the production of scientific

knowledge in the post-Dictatorship context of Brazil since the 1980s. She argues

that during this period, scientific institutions increasingly faced the demands of social

movements and other social actors affected by a wide array of socio-environmental

crises and conflicts. The article examines some research initiatives that provide a model

of commitment towards supporting grassroots struggles against socio-environmental

injustice and inequality by developing inter-and transdisciplinary approaches and

practices. Although the pioneering examples discussed are a source of encouragement,

the author highlights the fact that some of the more difficult challenges and obstacles

faced by these initiatives come from entrenched traditions of "disciplinary purism" and

the institutional organization of the scientific system itself. Article 4, was co-authored by Gisela Ariana Rausch, Rosa Paola Aviña Escot, Lorena

Bottaro, Ana Nuñez, Franco Salvadores, Marian Sola Alvarez, and Laura PriscilaTercero

Cruz. The paper is a product of a Research Workshop focused on the propositions put

forward by Christian Laval and Pierre Dardot on the concept of "common". The workshop

included a Dialogue with Pierre Dardot that took place in one of the sessions. The

authors discuss the implications and applicability of Laval and Dardot's understanding

of "the common" for inter-and transdisciplinary research initiatives focused on social

grievances and conflicts connected with water-related environmental injustices and inequalities in Latin America. The discussion presented draws from research carried

out by the authors in Argentina, Guatemala, and Mexico. The article argues that Laval

and Dardot's conceptualization of the "common" proposes a resignification of this

concept and an invitation to wider disciplinary diversity in addressing the topic, which is

required to develop more adequate conceptual frameworks to account for the growing

complexity of socio-environmental processes. In Article 5, Luciano Villalba and Bianca Vienni-Baptista present an assesment

of the implementation of a water-related transdisciplinary research and intervention

project involving university researchers, public institutions and civil society actors

in the City of Tandil, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The authors' analysis is

informed by the heuristic Transdisciplinary Framework developed under the leadership

of Vienni-Baptista. The article presents details of this methodological framework for

transdisciplinary research and shows how it provides a useful tool for the design,

implementation, and evaluation of inter-and transdisciplinary projects.The paper places

emphasis on the complexities of processes of knowledge production oriented by

inter-and transdisciplinary approaches and casts light on the significance of learning

from unsuscessful activities, which often provide key information for tuning and

improving the design and implementation of research projects. In the particular case

examined by the authors, factors like the wider political context, the level of commitment

from key participants, failures of communication between different hierarchic levels of

the project's organizational structure, and the obstacles faced to achieve a meaningful

involvement of citizens and community representatives, particularly women, were

identified as important reasons for the eventual weakening and stagnation of the project.


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