Epistemological agility

Resource 1

The establishment of interdisciplinary Master's and PhD programs in sustainability science is opening up an exciting arena filled with opportunities for early-career scholars to address pressing sustainability challenges. However, embarking upon an interdisciplinary endeavour as an early-career scholar poses a unique set of challenges: to develop an individual scientific identity and a strong and specific methodological skill-set, while at the same time gaining the ability to understand and communicate between different epistemologies. Here, we explore the challenges and opportunities that emerge from a new kind of interdisciplinary journey, which we describe as 'undisciplinary.' Undisciplinary describes (1) the space or condition of early-career researchers with early interdisciplinary backgrounds, (2) the process of the journey, and (3) the orientation which aids scholars to address the complex nature of today's sustainability challenges. The undisciplinary journey is an iterative and reflexive process of balancing methodological groundedness and epistemological agility to engage in rigorous sustainability science.

Resource 2

Passionate about agility, I’m also a lover of philosophy. And one branch of philosophy that concerns agility is epistemology, the theory of knowledge, which attempts to make the distinction between justified belief and opinion. As agile practitioners, we are naturally very interested in what is related to knowledge because we are ardent seekers of truth. Throughout our iterations, we attempt to force experience and learning, we relentlessly try to consolidate the edifice that constitutes the knowledge we acquire. We’ll see how philosophers have treated the questions of knowledge throughout history.

Resource 3

In our reflections on the challenges of applying principles of transdisciplinary (TD) research in our PhDs, we have come to realise that there are three critical aspects which we have had to pay attention to simultaneously. These are: scientific rigour and excellence, societal relevance and engagement, and self-respect and care. Like the athlete training for the triple jump, the TD PhD student must learn to afford equal attention to these three aspects, and manage them concurrently.