Participatory research in times of COVID-19 and beyond: Adjusting your methodological toolkits

Claudia Sattler, Jens Rommel*, Cheng Chen, Marina García-Llorente, Inés Gutiérrez-Briceño, Katrin Prager, Maria F. Reyes, Barbara Schröter, Christoph Schulze, Lenny G.J. van Bussel, Lasse Loft, Bettina Matzdorf, Eszter Kelemen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Solving grand environmental societal challenges calls for transdisciplinary and participatory methods in social-ecological research. These methods enable co-designing the research, co-producing the results, and co-creating the impacts together with concerned stakeholders. COVID-19 has had serious impacts on the choice of research methods, but reflections on recent experiences of “moving online” are still rare. In this perspective, we focus on the challenge of adjusting different participatory methods to online formats used in five transdisciplinary social-ecological research projects. The key added value of our research is the lessons learned from a comparison of the pros and cons of adjusting a broader set of methods to online formats. We conclude that combining the adjusted online approaches with well-established face-to-face formats into more inclusive hybrid approaches can enrich and diversify the pool of available methods for postpandemic research. Furthermore, a more diverse group of participants can be engaged in the research process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
JournalOne Earth
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the following financial support for the authorship and publication of this perspective: C. Sattler, J.R. M.G.-L. I.G.-B. K.P. C. Schulze, L.G.J.B. B.M. and E.K. acknowledge support through Contracts2.0 and L.L. and C. Sattler through InnoForESt, both funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 program under grant agreements 818190 and 763899, respectively. C.C. and L.L. acknowledge support from PEATWISE, in which ZALF's research was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) under grant 22408917. B.S. was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) through a grant for the PlanSmart research group under grant 01UU1601B. M.F.R. obtained support through SIMTWIST funded by Water-JPI under grant ENWWW.2018.4. We would like to acknowledge input received from stakeholders involved in the different projects whose feedback on the use of the adjusted methods informed part of this research. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable comments, which helped us improve an earlier version of this perspective. The graphical abstract uses icons from The Noun Project ( shared under Free Creative Commons licenses, created by Vector Valley (virus), Milinda Courey (heads), ICONZ (computer), tezar tantular (+/?), and Komkrit Noenpoempisut (brain). C. Sattler created the first draft of the commented outline, refined it further together with J.R. and invited other co-authors to join. After the first online meeting, co-authors split up to write method sections (Net-Map: C. Sattler, C.C. and K.P.; Q-methodology: C. Schulze and M.G.-L.; Participatory modeling: M.F.R.; Public goods games: J.R. and C. Schulze; Geodesign: B.S.; Living labs: I.G.-B. M.G.-L. and L.G.J.B.) and invited feedback from all authors. On the basis of joint reflections at three subsequent meetings, the method sections were further refined, and the other sections and figures and tables were added and stepwise improved by three feedback and review loops, with additional critical input from L.L. B.M. and E.K. contributing further expertise on participatory methods and transdisciplinary research. The authors declare no competing interests.


  • corona pandemic
  • participatory methods
  • social-ecological research
  • transdisciplinarity


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