Sustainability Science

, Volume 7, Supplement 1, pp 101–113 | Cite as

Establishing sustainability science in higher education institutions: towards an integration of academic development, institutionalization, and stakeholder collaborations

  • Masaru YarimeEmail author
  • Gregory Trencher
  • Takashi Mino
  • Roland W. Scholz
  • Lennart Olsson
  • Barry Ness
  • Niki Frantzeskaki
  • Jan Rotmans
Special Feature: Original Article Sustainability science: bridging the gap between science and society


The field of sustainability science aims to understand the complex and dynamic interactions between natural and human systems in order to transform and develop these in a sustainable manner. As sustainability problems cut across diverse academic disciplines, ranging from the natural sciences to the social sciences and humanities, interdisciplinarity has become a central idea to the realm of sustainability science. Yet, for addressing complicated, real-world sustainability problems, interdisciplinarity per se does not suffice. Active collaboration with various stakeholders throughout society—transdisciplinarity—must form another critical component of sustainability science. In addition to implementing interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in practice, higher education institutions also need to deal with the challenges of institutionalization. In this article, drawing on the experiences of selected higher education academic programs on sustainability, we discuss academic, institutional, and societal challenges in sustainability science and explore the potential of uniting education, research and societal contributions to form a systematic and integrated response to the sustainability crisis.


Higher education institutions Interdisciplinarity Transdisciplinarity Institutionalization Stakeholder collaboration Social experimentation 



The authors thank the handling editor and three anonymous reviewers for their very constructive comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masaru Yarime
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gregory Trencher
    • 1
  • Takashi Mino
    • 1
  • Roland W. Scholz
    • 2
  • Lennart Olsson
    • 3
  • Barry Ness
    • 3
  • Niki Frantzeskaki
    • 4
  • Jan Rotmans
    • 4
  1. 1.Graduate Program in Sustainability Science (GPSS), Graduate School of Frontier ScienceUniversity of TokyoChibaJapan
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED), Natural and Social Science Interface (NSSI), ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS)LundSweden
  4. 4.Dutch Research Institute For Transitions, Faculty of Social SciencesErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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