Building Interdisciplinary Partnerships for Community-Engaged Environmental Health Research in Appalachian Virginia

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Mar 5;17(5):1695. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17051695.


This article describes a collaboration among a group of university faculty, undergraduate students, local governments, local residents, and U.S. Army staff to address long-standing concerns about the environmental health effects of an Army ammunition plant. The authors describe community-responsive scientific pilot studies that examined potential environmental contamination and a related undergraduate research course that documented residents' concerns, contextualized those concerns, and developed recommendations. We make a case for the value of resource-intensive university-community partnerships that promote the production of knowledge through collaborations across disciplinary paradigms (natural/physical sciences, social sciences, health sciences, and humanities) in response to questions raised by local residents. Our experience also suggests that enacting this type of research through a university class may help promote researchers' adoption of "epistemological pluralism", and thereby facilitate the movement of a study from being "multidisciplinary" to "transdisciplinary".

Keywords: Appalachia; community-engaged research; environmental health; interdisciplinary research; transdisciplinary research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Health*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Public Health*
  • Public-Private Sector Partnerships*
  • Research Personnel
  • Universities
  • Virginia