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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

This material is based, in part, 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.

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Correspondence to Thaddeus R. Miller.

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Handled by Rene Kemp, UNU-MERIT and ICIS, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.

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Miller, T.R., Wiek, A., Sarewitz, D. et al. The future of sustainability science: a solutions-oriented research agenda. Sustain Sci 9, 239–246 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-013-0224-6

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Keywords

  • Sustainability science
  • Decision-making
  • Scenarios
  • Values
  • Socio-technical change