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Rethinking Impact

A Transdisciplinary Perspective in Academia


Image credit: Floris Dekker / Claveles

In contemporary academia, the notion of “impact” has become ubiquitous, yet its overuse has rendered it a buzzword in need of critical examination and action. The prevalent reliance on metrics, benchmarking, and indexing systems has perpetuated institutional and disciplinary hierarchies, often resulting in superficial assessments lacking systemic understanding. This project seeks to dissect these issues and foster a critical reflection on impact assessment within academia. Our goal is to facilitate a transition towards regenerative practices that acknowledge the interconnectedness of research, education, and public engagement.

Researchers and educators grapple with the dilemma of individual versus collective impact assessment, further complicated by varying interpretations across disciplines. Despite best intentions, the broader implications of our work often go unnoticed, particularly within inter- and transdisciplinary contexts.

Our project aims to unravel these complexities by fostering a dialogue on reconceptualizing impact beyond disciplinary confines. We advocate for an unconventional collaboration, departing from traditional approaches and embracing a transdisciplinary perspective. By integrating embodied experiences, art, connection with nature’s wisdom, and diverse ways of knowing, we seek to unearth insights overlooked by conventional methods.

Embarking on a transdisciplinary research journey  brought together a dynamic blend of different cultural backgrounds and academic expertise. Hailing from the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Italy, and Poland, our team comprises Peter, a Physicist studying complex, nonlinear systems in particular fluid dynamics; Petra, a Cell Biologist delving into the science of lab grown organs, more specific human penises; Emanuele, a political scientist exploring the cultural and political significance of rivers through collaborations with journalists and artists; and Ewelina, an Industrial Designer with a penchant for ecosystemic approach to design practices and radical sharing of aliveness. This diverse team, with members open to observing and learning through a mix of academic and non-academic methods, ignites a unique yet significant spark in exploring ways to rethink impact.

Research team: Peter Dung (TU/e), Emanuele Fantini (UU/TUD), Petra de Graaf (UMCU), Ewelina Schraven (TU/e).

Contact team: p.degraaf-4 [at] umcutrecht.nl.