From Promise to Practice: How Health Researchers Understand and Promote Transdisciplinary Collaboration

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There is an increasing emphasis on transdisciplinary research to address the complex challenges faced by health systems. However, research has not adequately explored how members of transdisciplinary research teams perceive, understand, and promote transdisciplinary collaboration. As such, there is a need to investigate collaborative behaviors, knowledge, and the impacts of transdisciplinary research. To address this gap, we conducted a longitudinal realist evaluation of transdisciplinary collaboration within a 5-year National Health and Medical Research Council–funded Center of Research Excellence in Transdisciplinary Frailty Research. The current study aimed to explore researchers’ perceptions and promotion of transdisciplinary research specifically within the context of frailty research using qualitative methods. Participants described transdisciplinary research as a collaborative and integrative approach that involves individuals from various disciplines working together to tackle complex research problems. However, participants often used terms like interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary interchangeably, indicating that a shared understanding of transdisciplinary research is needed. Barriers to transdisciplinary collaboration included time constraints, geographical distance, and entrenched collaboration patterns. To overcome these challenges, participants suggested implementing strategies such as creating a shared vision and goals, establishing appropriate collaboration systems and structures, and role modeling collaborative behaviors, values, and attitudes. Our findings underscore the need for practical knowledge in developing transdisciplinary collaboration and leadership skills across different career stages. In the absence of formal training, sustained and immersive programs that connect researchers with peers, educators, and role models from various disciplines and provide experiential learning opportunities, may be valuable in fostering successful transdisciplinary collaboration.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalQualitative Health Research
Early online date14 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Mar 2024


  • transdisciplinary
  • translational health research
  • collaboration
  • qualitative
  • knowledge translation


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