Interdisciplinary, but how? Anthropological Perspectives from Collaborative Research on Climate and Environmental Change

The aim of this perspective article is to rethink how anthropology can be involved in interdisciplinary research on climate and environmental change, considering wide-spread obstacles for successful collaboration and recommending best practices. Anthropologists complement ”big data“ with “thick data“, which must not be overlooked if the global scientific goal is to have a sustainable and responsible local impact in communities facing environmental change. Anthropologists are used to working with uncertainty, qualified for shifting scales and perspectives, and, perhaps most importantly, pre-occupied with studying the human dimensions of environmental change. However, there are still many practical, ontological and epistemological challenges concerning interdisciplinary research with an environmental focus. After outlining the most recent developments and literature on interdisciplinary research, we share our experience with integrating diverse forms of environmental knowledge including local and indigenous knowledge. Using an inductive approach, we build on and illustrate our conclusions with ethnographic vignettes that stem from a variety of our interdisciplinary projects. Several key themes and suggestions emerge: a) establishment of a joint epistemological framework before the research phase; b) humility and respect for methodologies used by other disciplines, including time spent on studying these with colleagues of different disciplinary backgrounds; c) openness, creativity and flexibility to step out of one’s own disciplinary comfort zone; d) communication within the project team based on trust and without disciplinary hierarchies. Finally, we share some practical suggestions on how to set up interdisciplinary projects.

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To cite: Sophie Elixhauser, Zofia Boni, Nataša Gregorič Bon, Urša Kanjir, Alexandra Meyer, Frank Muttenzer, Mareike Pampus, Zdenka Sokolíčková (2024) “Interdisciplinary, but how? Anthropological Perspectives from Collaborative Research on Climate and Environmental Change”, Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 151,