Sustainability Science

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 483–496

Action, research and participation: roles of researchers in sustainability transitions

Original Article

Abstract

In sustainability science, the tension between more descriptive–analytical and more process-oriented approaches is receiving increasing attention. The latter entails a number of roles for researchers, which have largely been neglected in the literature. Based on the rich tradition of action research and on a specific process-oriented approach to sustainability transitions (transition management), we establish an in-depth understanding of the activities and roles of researchers. This is done by specifying ideal-type roles that researchers take when dealing with key issues in creating and maintaining space for societal learning—a core activity in process-oriented approaches. These roles are change agent, knowledge broker, reflective scientist, self-reflexive scientist and process facilitator. To better understand these ideal-type roles, we use them as a heuristic to explore a case of transition management in Rotterdam. In the analysis, we discuss the implications of this set of ideal-type roles for the self-reflexivity of researchers, role conflicts and potentials, and for the changing role of the researcher and of science in general.

Keywords

Roles of researchers Process-oriented sustainability science Transition management Action research Transdisciplinarity 

References

  1. Avelino F (2011) Power in Transition. Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Empowering Discourses on Sustainability TransitionsGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergmann M, Brohmann B, Hoffmann E, Loibl M, Rehaag R, Schramm E, Voß J-P (2005) Quality Criteria of Transdisciplinary Research. A guide for the formative evaluation of Research Projects, Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  3. Bradbury H, Reason P (2003) Action research. An opportunity for revitalizing research purpose and practices. Qua Soc Work 2(2):155–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buchanan D, Badham R (1999) Power, Politics and Organizational Change: Winning the Turf Game. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Chandler D, Torbert B (2003) Transforming inquiry and action: interweaving 27 flavors of action research. Action Res 1(2):133–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clinton RL (1991) Grassroots development where no grass grows: small scale development efforts on the Peruvian Coast. Stud Comp Int Dev 26(2):59–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coglan D, Shani AB (2006) Roles, politics, and ethics in action research design. Syst Pract Action Res 18(6):533–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cornell S, Berkhout F, Tuinstra W, Tabara JD, Jaeger J, Chabay I, De Wit B, Langlais R, Mills D, Moll P, Otto IM, Petersen A, Pohl C, Van Kerkhoff L (2013) Opening up knowledge systems for better responses to global environmental change. Environ Sci Policy 28:60–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dick B (2004) Action research literature themes and trends. Action Res 2(4):425–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fadeeva Z, Mochizuki Y (2010) Higher education for today and tomorrow: university appraisal for diversity innovation and change towards sustainable development. Sustain Sci 5(2):249–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Frantzeskaki N, Loorbach D, Meadowcroft J (2012) Governing societal transitions to sustainability. Int J Sustain Dev 15(1):19–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Grant J, Nelson G, Mitchell T (2008) Negotiating the Challenges of Participatory Action Research: relationships, Power, Participation, Change and Credibility. In: Reason P, Bradbury H (eds) Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. Sage, London, pp 589–601Google Scholar
  13. Greenwood DJ, Levin M (2007) Introduction to Action Research. Social Research for Social Change, 2nd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  14. Greenwood DJ, Whyte WF, Harkavy I (1993) Participatory action research as a process and as a goal. Hum Relat 46:175–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Greiner LE, Schein VE (1988) Power and Organization Development. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MAGoogle Scholar
  16. Grin J, Rotmans J, Schot J, Loorbach D, Geels FW (2010) Transitions to sustainable development; new directions in the study of long term transformative change. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Holm P, Goodsite ME, Cloetingh S, Agnoletti M, Moldan B, Lang DJ, Leemans R, Oerstroem Moeller J, Buendı´a MP, Pohl W, Scholz RW, Sors A, Vanheusdenm B, Yusoff K, Zondervan R (2013) Collaboration between the natural, social and human sciences in global change research. Environ Sci Policy 28:25–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. ICSU (2014) Future Earth Website, see http://www.icsu.org/future-earth. Accessed April 2014
  19. Kajikawa Y (2008) Research core and framework for sustainability science. Sustain Sci 3:215–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kates RW, Clark WC, Corell R, Hall JM, Jaeger CC, Lowe I, McCarthy JJ, Schellnhuber HJ, Bolin B, Dickson NM, Faucheux S, Calloprn GC, Grübler A, Huntley B, Jäger J, Jodha NS, Kasperson RE, Mabogunje A, Matson P, Mooney H, Moore B III, O’Riordan T, Svedin U (2001) Sustainability science. Science 292:641–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kemmis S (2010) What is to be done? The place of action research. Edu Action Res 18(4):417–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Komiyama H, Takeuchi K (2006) Sustainability science: building a new discipline. Sustain Sci 1:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lang DJ, Wiek A, Bergmann M, Stauffacher M, Martens P, Moll P, Swilling M, Thomas CJ (2012) Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges. Sustain Sci 7(Supplement 1):25–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Levin M (2012) Academic integrity in action research. Action Res 10:133–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Levin M, Greenwood DJ (2008) The future of universities: Action research and the transformation of higher education. In: Reason P, Bradbury H (eds) Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. Sage, London, pp 211–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Loorbach D (2007) Transition Management. Erasmus University, Rotterdam, New Mode of Governance for Sustainable DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  27. Loorbach D (2010) Transition management for sustainable development: a prescriptive, complexity-based governance framework. Governance 23(1):161–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Loorbach D, Frantzeskaki N, Thissen WH (2011) A transition research perspective on governance for sustainability. In: Jaeger CC, Tàbara JD, Jaeger J (eds) European Research on sustainable development, Vol 1. Transformative Science Approaches for Sustainability. Springer, pp 73–90Google Scholar
  29. Miller TR (2013) Constructing sustainability science: emerging perspectives and research trajectories. Sustain Sci 8:279–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miller TR, Munoz-Erickson T, Redman CL (2011) Transforming knowledge for sustainability: towards adaptive academic institutions. Int J Sustain High Educ 12(2):177–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Miller TR, Wiek A, Sarewitz D, Robinson J, Olsson L, Kriebel D, Loorbach D (2013) The future of sustainability science: a solutions-oriented research agenda. Sustainability science. doi:10.1007/s11625-013-0224-6
  32. Ness B (2013) Sustainability science: progress made and directions forward. Chall Sustain 1(1):27–28Google Scholar
  33. Nowotny HS, Gibbons Scott PM (2001) Rethinking science: knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Polity, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  34. Pohl C, Rist S, Zimmermann A, Fry P, Gurung GS, Schneider F, Speranza CI, Kiteme B, Boillat S, Serrano E, Hirsch Hadorn G, Wiesmann U (2010) Researchers’ roles in knowledge co-production: experience from sustainability research in Kenya, Switzerland, Bolivia and Nepal. Sci Public Pol 37(4):267–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ramos J (2006) Dimensions in the confluence of futures studies and action research. Futures 38:642–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rauschmayer F, Muenzing T, Frühmann J (2011) A plea for the self-aware researcher: Learning from business transformation processes for transitions to sustainable development. In: Rauschmayer F, Omann I, Frühmann J (eds) Sustainable development: Capabilities, needs, and well-being. Routledge, London, pp 121–143Google Scholar
  37. Reason P, Bradbury H (eds) (2008) Handbook of Action Research, 2nd edn. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  38. Roorda C, Frantzeskaki N, Loorbach D, van Steenbergen F, Wittmayer J (2012) Transition Management in Urban Context - guidance manual, collaborative evaluation version. Erasmus University, Rotterdam, DriftGoogle Scholar
  39. Rotmans J (2005) Societal innovation: between dream and reality lies complexity. Erasmus University, RotterdamGoogle Scholar
  40. Rotmans J, Kemp R, Van Asselt M (2001) More evolution than revolution: transition Management in public policy. Foresight 3(1):15–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Salas-Zapata WA, Rios-Osorio LA, Trouchon-Osorio AL (2012) Typology of scientific reflections needed for sustainability science development. Sustainability science. doi:10.1007/s11625-012-0183-3
  42. Schneidewind U, Singer-Brodowski M (2013) Transformative Wissenschaft : Klimawandel im deutschen Wissenschafts- und Hochschulsystem. Metropolis, Marburg, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  43. Scholz RW (2011) Environmental literacy in science and society: from knowledge to decisions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sinwell L (2012) Transformative Left-wing parties and grassroots organizations: unpacking the politics of ‘Top-Down’ and ‘Bottom-Up’ development. Geoforum 43(2):190–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Spangenberg JH (2011) Sustainability science: a review, an analysis and some empirical lessons. Environ Conserv 38:275–287. doi:10.1017/S0376892911000270 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stauffacher M, Walter AI, Lang DJ, Wiek A, Scholz RW (2006) Learning to research environmental problems from a functional socio-cultural constructivism perspective. The transdisciplinary case study approach. Int J Sustain High Educ 7(3):252–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stauffacher M, Flüeler T, Krütli P, Scholz RW (2008) Analytic and dynamic approach to collaboration: a transdisciplinary case study on sustainable landscape development in a Swiss prealpine region. Syst Pract Action Res 21(6):409–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stirling A (2006) Precaution, foresight and sustainability: reflection and reflexivity in the governance of science and technology. In: Voß JP, Bauknecht D, Kemp R (eds) Reflexive governance for sustainable development. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp 225–272Google Scholar
  49. Stoecker R (1999) Are academics irrelevant? Roles for scholars in participatory research. Am Behav Sci 42:840–854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. van Buuren A, Loorbach D (2009) Policy innovation in isolation? Conditions for policy renewal by transition arenas and pilot projects. Pub Manag Rev 11(3):375–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. van den Bosch S (2010) Transition Experiments. Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Exploring societal changes towards sustainabilityGoogle Scholar
  52. van der Brugge R, van Raak R (2007) Facing the adaptive management challenge: insights from TM. Ecol Soc 12(2):33Google Scholar
  53. van Kerkhoff L (2013) Developing integrative research for sustainability science through a complexity principles-based approach. Sustainability science. doi:10.1007/s11625-013-0203-y
  54. WBGU (2011) Welt im Wandel Gesellschaftsvertrag für eine Groβe Transformation. WGBU, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  55. Wicks PG, Reason P (2009) Initiating action research Challenges and paradoxes of opening communicative space. Action Res 7(3):243–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wiek A (2007) Challenges of transdisciplinary research as interactive knowledge generation. Gaia 16(1):52–57Google Scholar
  57. Wiek A, Withycombe L, Redman CL (2011) Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development. Sustain Sci 6:203–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wiek A, Ness B, Schweizer-Ries P, Brand FS, Farioli F (2012a) From complex systems analysis to transformational change: a comparative appraisal of sustainability science projects. Sustain Sci 7(Supplement 1):5–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wiek A, Farioli F, Fukushi K, Yarime M (2012b) Sustainability science: bridging the gap between science and society. Sustain Sci 7(Supplement 1):1–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wittmayer, J., M. Mock, F. van Steenbergen, S. Baasch, I. Omann & N. Schäpke (2013c) Taking stock – Three years of addressing societal challenges on community level through action research Pilot specific synthesis report. Deliverable 4.5. InContext: EU ENV.2010.4.2.3-1 Grant agreement n° 265191Google Scholar
  61. Wittmayer J, Van Steenbergen F, Quist J, Loorbach D, Hoogland C (2011a) The Community Arena: a co-creation tool for sustainable behaviour by local communities Methodological guidelines. Deliverable 4.1. InContext: EU ENV.2010.4.2.3-1 Grant agreement n° 265191Google Scholar
  62. Wittmayer J, van Steenbergen F, Bohunovsky L, Baasch S, Quist J, Loorbach D, Hoogland C, (2011b) Pilot projects getting started. Year 1 Status Report. Deliverable 4.2, InContext: EU ENV.2010.4.2.3-1 Grant agreement n° 265191Google Scholar
  63. Wittmayer J, van Steenbergen F, Baasch S, Feiner G, Omann I, Quist J and Loorbach D (2012) Pilot projects on a roll. Year 2 pilot specific reports. Deliverable 4.3. InContext: EU ENV.2010.4.2.3-1 Grant agreement n° 265191Google Scholar
  64. Wittmayer J, Schäpke N, Feiner G, Piotrowski R, Baasch S (2013a) Action Research for Sustainability. Reflections on Transition managementM in practice. Research Brief/Deliverable 5.2. InContext: EU ENV.2010.4.2.3-1 Grant agreement n° 265191Google Scholar
  65. Wittmayer J, van Steenbergen F, Baasch S, Feiner G, Mock M, Omann I (2013b) Pilot projects rounding up. Year 3 Pilot-specific report. Deliverable 4.4. InContext: EU ENV.2010.4.2.3-1 Grant agreement n° 265191Google Scholar
  66. Yarime M, Trencher G, Mino T, Scholz RW, Olsson L, Ness B, Frantzeskaki N, Rotmans J (2012) Establishing sustainability science in higher education institutions: towards an integration of academic development, institutionalization, and stakeholder collaborations. Sustain Sci 7 (Suppl 1):101-113Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT)Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability ResearchLeuphana University of LüneburgLüneburgGermany

Personalised recommendations