Note and Comment

Sustainability Science

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 239-246

First online:

The future of sustainability science: a solutions-oriented research agenda

  • Thaddeus R. MillerAffiliated withNohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University Email author 
  • , Arnim WiekAffiliated withSchool of Sustainability, Arizona State University
  • , Daniel SarewitzAffiliated withSchool of Sustainability, Arizona State UniversityConsortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University
  • , John RobinsonAffiliated withUBC Sustainability Initiative, and Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
  • , Lennart OlssonAffiliated withLund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund University
  • , David KriebelAffiliated withLowell Center for Sustainable Production, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • , Derk LoorbachAffiliated withDutch Research Institute For Transitions (DRIFT), Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam

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Over the last decade, sustainability science has been at the leading edge of widespread efforts from the social and natural sciences to produce use-inspired research. Yet, how knowledge generated by sustainability science and allied fields will contribute to transitions toward sustainability remains a critical theoretical and empirical question for basic and applied research. This article explores the limitations of sustainability science research to move the field beyond the analysis of problems in coupled systems to interrogate the social, political and technological dimensions of linking knowledge and action. Over the next decade, sustainability science can strengthen its empirical, theoretical and practical contributions by developing along four research pathways focused on the role of values in science and decision-making for sustainability: how communities at various scales envision and pursue sustainable futures; how socio-technical change can be fostered at multiple scales; the promotion of social and institutional learning for sustainable development.


Sustainability science Decision-making Scenarios Values Socio-technical change