Sustainability Science

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 749–762 | Cite as

Utilizing international networks for accelerating research and learning in transformational sustainability science

  • Lauren Withycombe KeelerEmail author
  • Arnim Wiek
  • Daniel J. Lang
  • Makoto Yokohari
  • John van Breda
  • Lennart Olsson
  • Barry Ness
  • Jordi Morato
  • Jordi Segalàs
  • Pim Martens
  • Luis A. Bojórquez-Tapia
  • James Evans
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainability Science Innovation and Capacity Development


A promising approach for addressing sustainability problems is to recognize the unique conditions of a particular place, such as problem features and solution capabilities, and adopt and adapt solutions developed at other places around the world. Therefore, research and teaching in international networks becomes critical, as it allows for accelerating learning by sharing problem understandings, successful solutions, and important contextual considerations. This article identifies eight distinct types of research and teaching collaborations in international networks that can support such accelerated learning. The four research types are, with increasing intensity of collaboration: (1) solution adoption; (2) solution consultation; (3) joint research on different problems; and (4) joint research on similar problems. The four teaching types are, with increasing intensity of collaboration: (1) adopted course; (2) course with visiting faculty; (3) joint course with traveling faculty; and (4) joint course with traveling students. The typology is illustrated by extending existing research and teaching projects on urban sustainability in the International Network of Programs in Sustainability, with partner universities from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa. The article concludes with challenges and strategies for extending individual projects into collaborations in international networks.


Sustainability science Sustainability education International networks University collaborations 



The authors express their gratitude to all those who supported and participated in the 2015 annual meeting and workshop of the International Network of Programs in Sustainability (NEPS). The research and teaching projects, ideas, and enthusiasm for collaboration shared during the workshop were critical inputs to this article. Thank you especially to the students, faculty, and administration staff at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, who made this workshop possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren Withycombe Keeler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arnim Wiek
    • 1
    • 2
  • Daniel J. Lang
    • 1
  • Makoto Yokohari
    • 3
  • John van Breda
    • 4
  • Lennart Olsson
    • 5
  • Barry Ness
    • 5
  • Jordi Morato
    • 6
  • Jordi Segalàs
    • 6
  • Pim Martens
    • 7
  • Luis A. Bojórquez-Tapia
    • 8
  • James Evans
    • 9
  1. 1.Faculty of SustainabilityLeuphana University of LüneburgLunenburgGermany
  2. 2.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate School of EngineeringThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  4. 4.School of Public LeadershipStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  5. 5.Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS)Lund UniversityLundSweden
  6. 6.Research Institute for Sustainability Science and TechnologyUniversitat Politècnica de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.International Center for Integrated Assessment and Sustainable Development (ICIS)Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  8. 8.Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad (LANCIS), Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)MexicoMexico
  9. 9.School of Environment, Education and DevelopmentUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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