Transformational Sustainability Research Methodology

  • Arnim WiekEmail author
  • Daniel J. Lang


Sustainability science can roughly be differentiated into two distinct research streams – a “descriptive-analytical” and a “transformational” one. While the former is primarily concerned with describing and analyzing sustainability problems, the latter aims at developing evidence-supported solution options to solve these problems. This chapter presents relevant methodological guidelines and requirements as well as five exemplary research frameworks for transformational sustainability research. The frameworks are for (1) complex problem-handling, (2) transition management and governance, (3) backcasting, (4) integrated planning research, and (5) the transformational sustainability research (TRANSFORM framework). The TRANSFORM framework aims at synthesizing key components of the other frameworks. The frameworks provide guidelines for transformational sustainability research; yet, willingness and capacity of academic, governmental, private, and nonprofit organizations to use them for knowledge-generating operations are still fairly low. To truly support sustainability transformations, much more of this solution-oriented sustainability research is needed.


Descriptive-analytical sustainability research Transformational sustainability research Knowledge types Methodological frameworks Evidence-supported solution options 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Sustainability, Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary ResearchLeuphana University of LüneburgLüneburgGermany

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