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Moving health upstream in urban development: Reflections on the operationalization of a transdisciplinary case study

Black, Daniel; Scally, Gabriel; Orme, Judy; Hunt, Alistair; Pilkington, Paul; Lawrence, Roderick; Ebi, Kristie


Daniel Black

Gabriel Scally

Judy Orme
Professor/Ins Director ISHE

Alistair Hunt

Roderick Lawrence

Kristie Ebi


This paper describes the development, conceptualization, and implementation of a transdisciplinary research pilot, the aim of which is to understand how human and planetary health could become a priority for those who control the urban development process. Key challenges include a significant dislocation between academia and the real world, alongside systemic failures in valuation and assessment mechanisms. The National Institutes of Health four‐phase model of transdisciplinary team‐based research is drawn on and adapted to reflect on what has worked well and what has not operationally. Results underscore the need for experienced academics open to new collaborations and ways of working; clarity of leadership without compromising exploration; clarification of the poorly understood “impacts interface” and navigation toward effective real world impact; acknowledgement of the additional time and resource required for transdisciplinary research and “nonacademic” researchers. Having practitioner‐researchers as part of the research leadership team requires rigourous reflective practice and effective management, but it can also ensure breadth in transdisciplinary outlook as well as constant course correction toward real‐world impact. It is important for the research community to understand better the opportunities and limitations provided by knowledge intermediaries in terms of function, specialism, and experience.


Black, D., Scally, G., Orme, J., Hunt, A., Pilkington, P., Lawrence, R., & Ebi, K. (2019). Moving health upstream in urban development: Reflections on the operationalization of a transdisciplinary case study. Global Challenges, 3(4), 1700103.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 14, 2018
Online Publication Date Aug 7, 2018
Publication Date Apr 30, 2019
Deposit Date Aug 13, 2018
Publicly Available Date Aug 13, 2018
Journal Global Challenges
Print ISSN 2056-6646
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 4
Pages 1700103
Keywords impact, planetary health, transdisciplinary, upstream, urbanization
Public URL
Publisher URL