Sustainability Science

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 279–293 | Cite as

Constructing sustainability science: emerging perspectives and research trajectories

  • Thaddeus R. MillerEmail author
Overview Article


Over the last decade, sustainability science has emerged as an interdisciplinary and innovative field attempting to conduct problem-driven research that links knowledge to action. As the institutional dimensions of sustainability science continue to gain momentum, this article provides an analysis of emerging research agendas in sustainability science and an opportunity for reflection on future pathways for the field. Based on in-depth interviews with leading researchers in the field and a content analysis of the relevant literature, this article examines how sustainability scientists bound the social, political and normative dimensions of sustainability as they construct research agendas and look to link knowledge to social action. Many scientists position sustainability science as serving universal values related to sustainability and providing knowledge that is crucial to societal decision-making. The implications of these findings are discussed with an eye towards creating a space for a more democratic and reflexive research agenda for sustainability.


Sustainability science Boundary work Reflexive Science and technology studies Knowledge to action Research agenda 



The author owes a debt of gratitude to all of the interview subjects. Without their openness and generosity with their time, this article would not have been possible. It has benefitted from significant input from Ben A. Minteer, Daniel Sarewitz, Charles L. Redman and Arnim Wiek. Finally, the author would also like to thank Britt Crow and Tischa Muñoz-Erickson for valuable input. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0504248, IGERT in Urban Ecology at Arizona State University. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendation expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 39 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and PlanningPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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