Connections Seminar: Exploring the potential of a transdisciplinary information system on sustainability

Presented by Dr. Eilean Watson, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Connections Seminar: Exploring the potential of a transdisciplinary information system on sustainability

How could we support transdisciplinary approaches to sustainability learning, teaching and research?

In the book “Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination” Dovers (2010) alerts us to the need to make explicit the disciplines, knowledge systems and institutional systems involved in tackling wicked sustainability problems. He notes the need to enhance our collective learning by connecting the many disparate inquiries and experiments in the sustainability field. This potential project proposes to address these issues by developing an innovative online database-driven information system that can support transdisciplinary learning, teaching and research. The proposed system would be a resource for students, teachers, researchers, industry groups and community groups interested in tackling complex sustainability problems from an environmental, social and economic perspective. The system would include integrated tools for knowledge mapping, learning, information sharing and decision making. Conceptually, the knowledge mapping tool would be somewhat similar to the curriculum mapping tool used in the Medicine Program (see although the content and supporting technology would be different. By developing an information system that can capture both ideas and actions, promote collective learning and critical inquiry, and support transdisciplinary teams and networks, we may be better able to tackle some of society’s wicked sustainability problems.

The purpose of this seminar is to gauge the potential usefulness of such an information system and if it is worth moving the idea forward.  This seminar comprises a presentation and a brainstorming session to further explore the system’s potential.


Dovers, S. (2010). Embedded scales: interdisciplinary and institutional issues. In V. A. Brown, J. A. Harris and J. Y. Russell (Ed.), Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination (pp.182-192). London, UK: Earthscan.


Eilean is a Conjoint Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW. She is a medical educator with a research interest in information systems design and educational technology use. She has been involved in the design and development of the Faculty’s eMed curriculum management system since its inception, in particular the eMed Map and eMed Assessment Item Bank tools. In her doctoral thesis she evaluated the use of eMed Map by staff, and used systems theory and systems thinking paradigms to synthesise and discuss the research findings.

Video recording

Presentation slides

20th Apr 2016, 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Room 208, Library

Staff Only: Event open only to UNSW Staff



Christina Kingen