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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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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Correspondence to Lauren Withycombe Keeler.

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Handled by Osamu Saito, United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), Japan.

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Withycombe Keeler, L., Wiek, A., Lang, D.J. et al. Utilizing international networks for accelerating research and learning in transformational sustainability science. Sustain Sci 11, 749–762 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-016-0364-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-016-0364-6

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