TD Education: Fostering collaborative and transdisciplinary training in marine coastal science: a data informed analysis

Lorenzo Ciannelli1, Flaxen D.L. Conway2, Ana Spalding3, Cynthia Char4, Julia A Jones5, Michael A Banks6, Katherine Hoffman7 and Alix Gitelman7, (1)Oregon State University, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Corvallis, OR, United States, (2)Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States, (3)Oregon State University, School of Public Policy, Corvallis, United States, (4)Char Associates, United States, (5)Oregon State University, Geography, Corvallis, OR, United States, (6)Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, OR, United States, (7)Oregon State University, United States
In 2015 the National Science Foundation launched a new graduate research training award (NRT) to ‘encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, and potentially transformative models for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate education training’. Here, we summarize evaluations from students and faculty participating in the Oregon State University NRT program titled: ‘Risk and Uncertainty Quantification and Communication in Marine Science and Policy’. Initiated in Fall 2015, the program focuses on transdisciplinary (TD) collaborative training. One key program component is students’ work in small multi-disciplinary teams to formulate and conduct original transdisciplinary research. To date, 45 students and 44 advising faculty have participated in the program, with three cohorts (n = 34 students) having completed all training elements. The program evaluation includes formative and summative assessments of students and faculty. The formative evaluations point to the importance of positive peer interactions and faculty involvement, promoted via professional training in collaboration and communication, awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), clear communication about program expectations, and informal community building practices. Summative assessments report students’ increased preparedness and motivation to work collaboratively across disciplines, stronger communication skills to convey complex research topics and to engage stakeholders, and greater understanding of core concepts from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Evaluation of faculty indicate their exposure to new ideas, improved mentoring skills, and increased opportunities for co-advising, co-teaching, and co-writing research proposals. We conclude that TD collaborative training has the potential to provide benefits for both graduate students and advising faculty. Such TD training also requires deliberate planning, facilitation, professional, academic, DEI training and diligent follow through to maximize collaborative outcomes. We discuss these requirements reflecting on the personal experiences by the leadership team during the program’s existence.