The thematic focus of ESSG is the interface between sustainability science and development research. At this interface the need for different approaches to science becomes most apparent. This has to do with the nature of the problems at stake and the urgency of solutions required. Pioneering efforts in programmes and projects that are placed at this interface have developed methods and tools that already go relatively far in the direction of (possible) implementation. By doing so obstacles and challenges for implementation orientated research as well as achievements on how to deal with them have become more apparent and can be examined for further analysis and action. -> draw on these experiences

ESSG works in two main fields: the science system and the research funding system. In each of these fields certain topics can be identified although a lot of them are overlapping and depending on each other.

The Science System:
  • Quality criteria and incentive systems
    Developing and improving criteria that value implementation-oriented research work as much as the scientific results and support scientists to take on a “new role” in society.
  • Structures / institutional environment
    Identifying possible ways of integrating sustainability science into the disciplinary structures of the science system and developing strategies to overcome the most relevant obstacles.
  • Career options
    Identifying and supporting career options for young scientists beyond classical scientific paths and developing the necessary conditions for these options in the science system.
  • Methods and project designs
    Testing and improving tools, methods and designs of research projects that allow to:
    • integrate different actors from science and practice and their different forms of knowledge and
    • to carry out solution-oriented research contributing to societal learning processes towards a more sustainable development.
  • Teaching and education
    Developing approaches how to teach young scientists in the skills relevant for sustainability science and how to integrate them in the current system of education.

The research funding system:
  • Evaluation
    Developing ways for the evaluation of research institutions, projects and persons that allow to acknowledge their implementation oriented performance beyond the disciplinary and also beyond the purely scientific context (real world contributions to sustainable development).
  • Interface to implementation
    Developing solutions for the problem that sustainability science works across the sectors of administration and policy with regard to the science - implementation interface as well as the necessary integration of different sectors.
  • Procedures
    Carefully reform procedures of research funding to fit for implementation-oriented work towards sustainable development. This includes the integration of non-academic stakeholders, flexible project designs and time frames, sufficient financing of communication and process management and support of transfer activities beyond the project level.