Transdisciplinary research (TDR) aims at identifying implementable solutions to difficult sustainability problems and at fostering social learning. It requires a well-managed collaboration among multidisciplinary scientists and multisectoral stakeholders. Performing TDR is challenging, particularly for foreign researchers working in countries with different institutional and socio-cultural conditions. There is a need to synthesize and share experience among researchers as well as practitioners regarding how TDR can be conducted under specific contexts. In this paper, we aim to evaluate and synthesize our unique experience in conducting TDR projects in Asia. We applied guiding principles of TDR to conduct a formative evaluation of four consortium projects on sustainable land and water management in China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. In all projects, local political conditions restricted the set of stakeholders that could be involved in the research processes. The set of involved stakeholders was also affected by the fact that stakeholders in most cases only participate if they belong to the personal network of the project leaders. Language barriers hampered effective communication between foreign researchers and stakeholders in all projects and thus knowledge integration. The TDR approach and its specific methods were adapted to respond to the specific cultural, social, and political conditions in the research areas, also with the aim to promote trust and interest of the stakeholders throughout the project. Additionally, various measures were implemented to promote collaboration among disciplinary scientists. Based on lessons learned, we provide specific recommendations for the design and implementation of TDR projects in particular in Asia.
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