Transdisciplinary Interfaces and Innovation in the Life Sciences

by Eunsook Hyun (Volume editor) Rainer Paslack (Volume editor) Hilmar Stolte (Volume editor)
©2014 Conference proceedings 169 Pages


Life science comprises any of the branches of natural science dealing with the structure and behavior of living organisms and their relationships to one another and the environment. By presenting the proceedings of three transdisciplinary transatlantic workshops, this book deals with the interface among the ever expanding fields of molecular biology, nano-technology and synthetic biology as well as the subsequent ethical issues and the need for regulations. In this context the book emphasizes the role of regulations and ethical practices in clinical research, and points out the different approaches used in Europe and the USA. Clinical research was discussed from the perspective that medicine is and should always be a socially responsive human engagement advancing the condition of the living.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Taking a Transdisciplinary Approach to the Life Sciences
  • Transdisciplinarity and Ethics as Challenges for Life Sciences
  • Transdisciplinarity from a Problem-Based Perspective
  • Healthcare Systems Research – Ethics and Reality
  • To Create and Control Life – A Critical View on Synthetic Biology
  • Different Legal Regulations on Life Sciences in Europe and Worldwide
  • Protecting Humans as Consumers and Subjects: Different Ethical Standards in the Conduct of Research in Europe and America
  • Legal Regulation of Genetic Information in the USA and Germany – Promises kept in Insurance?
  • Enhancement in Medicine and Everyday Life: Ethical Aspects and Requirements for Legal Regulation
  • Data Mining of Medical Data: Opportunities and Challenges in Mining Association Rules
  • How to Promote Life Sciences as a Driving Force for Innovation
  • Three sectors – Infinite opportunities: Private-Government-Academic Opportunities to Advance the Life Sciences
  • Privatization of Universities and a New Social Compact: Trends in Funding
  • Financing Higher Education in Germany – Challenges and Perspectives
  • Contributors

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Taking a Transdisciplinary Approach to the Life Sciences

Eunsook Hyun

1. Introduction

A means to increasing integrated knowledge and practice without disciplinary boundaries, transdisciplinarity may ultimately provide an avenue for engagements promoting an insightful understanding and problem-solving capacity to complex human problems. Transdisciplinarity is a democratic epistemology and action (Hyun, 2011) that challenges all of us in academia, industry, government, and various human organizations, both public and private, the basis of whose operation comprises all forms of existing disciplinary human knowledge, science, and technology (e.g., Darbellay, Cockell, Billotte, & Waldvogel, 2008; Hadorn, Bradley, Pohl, Rist, & Wisemann, 2006; Kaufman, Moss, & Osborn, 2003; Kessel, & Rosenfield, 2008; Klein, 2004; McWilliam, Hearn, & Haseman,
2008; Nicolescu, 2002, 2007; Ramadier, 2004). The essential purposes of transdisciplinarity are (a) to signify and to engage in a unity of knowledge and
surpass mono-, inter-, and multidisciplinary approaches (Hyun, 2011) and (b) to build a capacity for human knowledge that is responsive to solve problems affecting real lives.

Transdisciplinarity inspires us to ponder a unity of knowledge beyond traditionally accepted disciplines (e.g., Nicolescu, 2002). Jean Piaget, a French-speaking Swiss developmental psychologist known for his theory of cognitive development and epistemological studies (generic epistemology) with children, introduced the term transdisciplinarity in 1970. Throughout his life, Piaget argued that education is the only means to saving human societies from collapse, regardless of whether cataclysmic or gradual. A question, however, remains: What kinds of education might be introduced to learners, researchers, policy makers, and various practitioners that would lead to a unity of human knowledge capacity, practice, potentiality, and awareness beyond the disciplinary boundaries.

To uncover the nature and characteristics of the flow of information circulating among the various branches of knowledge, to develop research in a new scientific transdisciplinary mode, and to create a global competence yielding educational capacity (de-educate, re-educate, and newly educate) in borderless disciplines, the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET) was founded in 1987 as a nonprofit organization located in Paris. The ← 11 | 12 → Charter of Transdisciplinarity, adopted in 1994 at the 1st World Congress of Transdisciplinarity in Convento da Arrábida, Portugal, was the boldest and most significant move in transdisciplinarity, signifying social responsibility of both academia and nonacademic entities as well as their collective transformative actions on a global scale (see Table 1).

Table 1: The Charter of Transdisciplinarity


Whereas, the present proliferation of academic and non-academic disciplines is leading to an exponential increase of knowledge which makes a global view of the human being impossible;

Whereas, only a form of intelligence capable of grasping the cosmic dimension of the present conflicts is able to confront the complexity of our world and the present challenge of the spiritual and material self-destruction of the human species;

Whereas, life on earth is seriously threatened by the triumph of a techno-science that obeys only the terrible logic of productivity for productivity’s sake;

Whereas, the present rupture between increasingly quantitative knowledge and increasingly impoverished inner identity is leading to the rise of a new brand of obscurantism with incalculable social and personal consequences;

Whereas, an historically unprecedented growth of knowledge is increasing the inequality between those who have and those who do not, thus engendering increasing inequality within and between the different nations of our planet;

Whereas, at the same time, hope is the counterpart of all the afore-mentioned challenges, a hope that this extraordinary development of knowledge could eventually lead to an evolution not unlike the development of primates into human beings;

Therefore, in consideration of all the above, the participants of the First World Congress of Transdisciplinarity (Convento da Arrábida, Portugal, November 2–7, 1994) have adopted the present Charter, which comprises the fundamental principles of the community of transdisciplinary researchers, and constitutes a personal moral commitment, without any legal or institutional constraint, on the part of everyone who signs this Charter.

Article 1:

Any attempt to reduce the human being by formally defining what a human being is and subjecting the human being to reductive analyses within a framework of formal structures, no matter what they are, is incompatible with the transdisciplinary vision.

Article 2:

The recognition of the existence of different levels of reality governed by different types of logic is inherent in the transdisciplinary attitude. Any attempt to reduce reality to a single level governed by a single form of logic does not lie within the scope of transdisciplinarity.

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Article 3:

Transdisciplinarity complements disciplinary approaches. It occasions the emergence of new data and new interactions from out of the encounter between disciplines. It offers us a new vision of nature and reality. Transdisciplinarity does not strive for mastery of several disciplines but aims to open all disciplines to that which they share and to that which lies beyond them.

Article 4:

The keystone of transdisciplinarity is the semantic and practical unification of the meanings that traverse and lay beyond different disciplines. It presupposes an open-minded rationality by re-examining the concepts of “definition” and “objectivity”. An excess of formalism, rigidity of definitions and a claim to total objectivity, entailing the exclusion of the subject, can only have a life-negating effect.

Article 5:

The transdisciplinary vision is resolutely open insofar as it goes beyond the field of the exact sciences and demands their dialogue and their reconciliation with the humanities and the social sciences, as well as with art, literature, poetry and spiritual experience.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (April)
Life sciences Biowissenschaft Bioethics Gesundheitssysteme Synthetic biology Genetik
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 169 pp., 7 coloured fig., 11 b/w fig., 1 table

Biographical notes

Eunsook Hyun (Volume editor) Rainer Paslack (Volume editor) Hilmar Stolte (Volume editor)

Eunsook Hyun is Dean and Professor of Curriculum Studies at the Charter College of Education, California State University, Los Angeles. Rainer Paslack is a Sociologist and Graduate Human Biologist at the Medical School of Hannover. Hilmar Stolte is Univ. Professor em. for Internal Medicine (Nephrology) at the Medical School of Hannover and President IALS-International Academy of Life Sciences.


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172 pages