Helena Hansson's declaration of intent

Last changed: 08 October 2021

Helena Hansson. Professor at the Department of Economics

If I am elected as a member or substitute member of the faculty board, I would primarily like to focus on questions related to multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches in research and education. I would like to focus on how we can establish more multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary collaborations in our research and on how we can educate in such a way that our students become better trained in multi- and interdisciplinary approaches to science.

There are no small challenges we now face, when the collective evidence of environmental problems clearly indicates that we need to transform our societies so that they become more sustainable (in all aspects of the term: environmental, social and economic) and resilient. Succeeding in this is also central for us to be able to live up to global and national agreements.  We face complex issues and challenges and there are no easy answers. The universities are absolutely central in producing knowledge to support the transformation.

To succeed with this, the need for multi- and interdisciplinary research will be even more accentuated. The problems we are facing are complex and we need to collaborate across traditional disciplinary boundaries, work together to put results in perspectives and contexts through system approaches, avoid solutions that involve sub-optimizations.

We also need to educate our students in such a way that they can put their knowledge into context and be well prepared to work with people from professions other than their own when they leave SLU. And we need to develop our capacities to collaborate with actors outside the academia. Traditional dissemination of research, where the results are compiled in simple summaries and then expected to influence society's decision-makers, is no longer enough. Instead, we need to get even more involved in discussions and interactions with decision-makers in industries and authorities, get involved in transdisciplinary collaborations together with societal actors.

At our faculty, we cover a broad set of academic disciplines, from natural sciences and technology to humanities and social sciences, and we share common interests in aspects related to the agricultural systems, aquatic systems and the sustainable management and use of the natural resources. In this way, we have a unique opportunity to develop multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary collaborations that allow us to contribute even more to complex issues such as how we in a more sustainable way can produce and consume food and manage and use natural resources.

Both through research and through education. Much is already being done, but we need to work to further develop and strengthen our competencies in conducting multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary research and collaboration and in how we prepare our students for a professional life that requires more collaboration between professions.

Does the need for multi- and interdisciplinary research mean that disciplinary development is no longer important? Not at all. The disciplinary development and excellence is needed to move the fields forward and to develop methods and theories that we can bring to multi- and interdisciplinary collaborations. And of course we will continue with that. But we need more of multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary collaborations. And we need to train our students at all levels to become better at multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking.

If I am elected as a member or substitute member of the faculty board, these are questions I would like to focus on. Our faculty's strategy for 2021-2025 is motivating and engaging. The aspects I would like to focus on are closely linked to the strategy. Multi- and interdisciplinary as well as systems approaches, where more perspectives are highlighted and results are placed in broader contexts, are common themes through the strategy to contribute to the next steps for sustainable development and one SLU.

Strengthening the collaboration with the surrounding society through transdisciplinary approaches is also a theme throughout the strategy. Our faculty has great potential and central next steps include focusing on activities that help to develop and strengthen our capacity to work in multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary contexts.

I am passionate about these questions and have for long time in my research career worked in multi- and interdisciplinary projects. As one of two program directors of Mistra Food Futures, I have acquired many useful insights into how transdisciplinary research can be organized and into how an interdisciplinary research program can be conducted. As vice dean for multi- and interdisciplinarity at NJ, I have for several years worked with questions about how collaborations across disciplines can be strengthened. I am available to contribute to the future development of our faculty.