Interdisciplinary Environmental and Sustainability Education and Research: Institutes and Centers at U.S. Research Universities

  • Shirley VincentEmail author
  • Antje Danielson
  • B. S. Rica Santos
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


Interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability focused institutes and centers (IESICs) serve a crucial role in bridging the knowledge needs of society and the knowledge production capabilities of universities. They facilitate research, administer academic programs, support campus sustainability initiatives, and engage in collaborative problem-solving with internal and external partners including students, faculty, staff, public and private sector organizations, citizen scientists, other colleges and universities, and governmental institutions from local to global. Few studies have examined the roles and structures of research institutes and centers and none have investigated IESICs specifically. This chapter describes the results of the first empirical study of IESICs in the United States. The data were obtained from a census of IESICs at research universities and a survey completed by a representative sample of 340 directors. The results reveal that IESICs comprise approximately 8 % of all U.S. research institutes and centers and fall into seven distinct categories, each exhibiting distinctive characteristics. Findings discussed include the types of IESICs, their primary goals, their funding sources, and how these attributes are related to their operational and administrative structures.


Research institutes and centers Interdisciplinary research Transdisciplinary research Environmental education Sustainability education 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shirley Vincent
    • 1
    Email author
  • Antje Danielson
    • 2
  • B. S. Rica Santos
    • 1
  1. 1.National Council for Science and the EnvironmentWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Tufts Institute for the EnvironmentTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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