Background

Sustainable development requires integrative work considering economic, ecological and social aspects in almost all policy domains. Such an integrative approach does not only challenge the way our governments or private sectors are organized but also the system of science. How can practically useful knowledge for sustainable development be produced within a system of science, which to a large extent is still organized around disciplines within which scientists produce knowledge by referring to their disciplinary fellows? How can science master within disciplinary set-ups the problems connected to ‘structural uncertainty’ and complexity that are particularly characteristic of problems dealing with interrelated questions of global change and development?

During the last twenty years a growing number of initiatives for such an integrative science evolved, known as et al sustainability science, transdisciplinary research, integrative and implementation-oriented science. Whereas these research fields yield a large amount of successful projects and make substantial progress in methodological and theoretical regards, they seriously struggle with finding their place within the existing structures of science as well as of society. So far we do not know how to anchor sustainability science in science and society in order to maximally support worldwide sustainable development. It is not clear
  • Were its place is in scientific institutions
  • How and by whom it has to be funded
  • How the collaboration between science and society has to be designed to improve sustainability science as well as sustainable development of the world
  • How researchers can build their careers in that field
  • How to redesign the science funding set-ups in order to make room for more sensible approaches in these areas and
  • How to deal with the problems and misconceptions at the many science - policy interfaces that this research and policy area has to deal with.
Based on an analysis of the current situation and on discussions with the respective stakeholders (funding agencies, representatives of scientific and governmental science policy institutions in Europe, representatives of the international science community…) ESSG wants to propose changes of the current structures that would give sustainability science a longer-term perspective while being able to arrive at more sensible and ‘implementable’ contributions towards sustainable development.