Legal research

Why Conducting transdisciplinary research ?

Within legal scholarship more generally, a new generation of studies, often conducted through transdisciplinary approaches, is elaborating how legal instruments can be made more effective. The aim of this multidisciplinary and multimethod scholarship is to improve the design of legal instruments and has been very active in areas such as international human rights law, environmental law or intellectual property rights (Shaffer and Gingsburg, 2012). To this purpose, researchers focus on the conditions under which law is formed, for instance through analysing the evolution of customary law and soft law rules, and the conditions under which legal rules have effects in different contexts. As specified by Shaffer and Gingsburg, the outcome of this “empirical legal research” is not a general theory, but an understanding of fields of law “conditional” on specific contexts of human agency, involving

“analysis that oscillate between empirical findings, abstract theorizing, real-world testing, and back again. In this way, scholars help narrow the gap between abstract theory, empirical research, and the world of practice” (Ibid.).

What is a typical example of transdisciplinary research in legal research ?

Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources

Figure: Historical open exchange practices of genetic resources within the global microbial commons, the starting point of an international law research on the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing Regime.

The Solar Living Lab in Palermo, Italy, is a real-world pilot built at University, co-designed with the local stakeholders (Di Bono et al., 2018) and based on the technology of concentrated sunlight (“solar concentrating collectors”) (Montenon et al., 2016). The living lab enables research on this promising solar energy technology in a real-world setting where societal constraints such as architectural/urban guidelines, choice of energy contracting and organisation of training into this new technology need to be integrated.

What tools were used ?

Based on the co-constructed research questions with the practice partners, the legal research was organized through two main components. The first component analysed the use of contracts and the legal clauses of contract in microbial collections that had taken the lead in implementing the access and benefit sharing regime. Second, based on the best practices at these collections, a standard model agreement was co-designed with the researchers and members of the culture collections communities. Both components were based on workshops to organize feedback on the practices and the proposed model contracts, along with semi-structured face to face interviews with culture collection managers.

References to this section

Shaffer, G., & Ginsburg, T. (2012). “The empirical turn in international legal scholarship. American Journal of International Law, 106(1), 1-46.

Dedeurwaerdere, T., 2010, “Global microbial commons: institutional challenges for the global exchange and distribution of microorganisms in the life sciences“, Research in Microbiology. 161(6): 414-421.

von Kries, C., Broggiato, A., Dedeurwaerdere, T., and Winter, G. 2015. “Micro B3 model agreement on access to marine microorganisms and benefit-sharing. Text and commentary”. In Chege Kamau, E., Stoll, P.-T., and Winter, G.(eds.) Research and Development on Genetic Resources. Public Domain Approaches in Implementing the Nagoya Protocol. Routledge: 330–362.

Dedeurwaerdere, T.,  Broggiato, A., and Manou, D. 2013. “Global scientific research commons under the Nagoya Protocol: governing pools of microbial genetic resources“, in E. Kamau and G. Winter (eds.), Common Pools of Genetic Resources: Equity and Innovation in International Biodiversity Law, Earthscan-Routledge, 224-245.

Dedeurwaerdere, T.,  Broggiato, A., Louafi, S., Welch, E. and Batur, F.  2012. “Governing Global Scientific Research Commons under the Nagoya Protocol“, in E. Morgera, M. Buck and E. Tsioumani (eds.), The 2010 Nagoya Protocol in Perspective: Implications for International Law and Implementation Challenges, Brill/Martinus Nijhoff. pp.389–421.