Transdisciplinary research has been around for a while, but you are the first to turn the theory into a full-time academic position. Why do you think you were the person to do that, what factors were at play?
I believe it was a combination of factors. During my time in research consortia, I found myself naturally involved in Gluon work, so I knew it could be done. Besides my personal experience in the field, I could also back it up with academic literature. Numerous studies in the US and Switzerland had already demonstrated the value of transdisciplinarity. Additionally, the right conditions were in place. The Convergence board recognized the importance of exploring transdisciplinary work. There’s a growing awareness that global challenges require a fresh approach. Although the pursuit of transdisciplinarity in policy dates back to the 90s, successful implementation has been elusive. Now, with a sense of urgency, everything has aligned. I guess it was a matter of being the right person in the right place at the right time.
What is the big difference between a Gluon Researcher and a more traditional role?
In a more traditional role, you use concepts and methods from an existing field, giving you guidance. You often work alone, giving you a lot of autonomy, which for some can feel isolating. As a Gluon researcher you are first and foremost a team player, for the connections and concepts you create are dependent on the input you get from your team of experts. This sense of belonging really helps to give meaning to your work. Additionally, you are continuously challenged to make new conceptual connections, there is a big sense of novelty, flexibility, and innovation.
If you could look into the future 5-10 years, what would you like the Gluon Project to be?
I would love to see a school of Convergence which houses a pool of dedicated Gluons. It would function as a platform for the creation of collective knowledge, where transdisciplinary methods are monitored and shared, and academic work is published that inspires streamlined research agendas. Experienced gluon researchers can also function as scouts in the knowledge landscape, being beacons of trust people can reach out to if they’re looking for niche expertise. A secret side benefit would be that the knowledge we produce isn’t only more relevant, but that academica becomes a nicer place to work in. Scientists would no longer have to struggle with this feeling of inadequacy and isolation but feel a greater sense of belonging and contribution that I now feel is oftentimes lacking. That is my dream.