ICoRD'13 pp 491-503 | Cite as

Sustainability and Research into Interactions

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering book series (LNME)


Sustainability is an ambitious interdisciplinary research agenda. The required knowledge, tools, methods and competencies being spread across wide-ranging areas pose challenges for researchers in sustainability who often specialize in one discipline. The efforts of researchers to understand sustainability comprehensively and contribute will be benefited if research outcomes are presented against an integrating framework for sustainability knowledge. Though general systems theory has this agenda, it targets consilience and not sustainability in particular as in sustainable development. However, systems concepts provide for a structure to imbibe aspects of sustainability. We propose a nested structure for organizing relevant research across the various scales of concerns that characterize sustainability. As understanding sustainability fundamentally requires understanding the interactions between natural and human systems, we discuss this in the context of the proposed structure and research into interactions.


Sustainability research Nestedness Interactions Systems coherence 



The authors thank Ramani K for valuable comment on the draft and The Boeing Company for financial support under contract PC36018 at SID, IISc.


  1. 1.
    Schellnhuber H (1999) Earth system analysis and the second Copernican revolution. Nature 402(2):C19–C23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Wiek A, Withycombe L, Redman CL, Ferrer-Balas D (eds) (2011) Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development. 30 Mar 2011Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Zalasiewicz J et al (2010) The new world of the anthropocene. Environ Sci Technol 44:2228–2231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Vitousek PM et al (1997) Human domination of earth’s ecosystems. Science 277:494–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Yu JF et al (2008) Recognition of Milankovitch cycles in the stratigraphic record: application of the CWT and the FFT to well-log data. J China Univ Min Technol 18(4):594–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Mörner NA, Burdyuzha V (eds) (2006) The danger of ruling models in a world of natural changes and shifts: the future of life and the future of our civilization. Springer, Berlin, pp 105–114Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ostrom E, Janssen MA, Anderies JM (2007) Going beyond panaceas. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104(39):15176–15178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Wickramasinghe C, Burdyuzha V (2006) The spread of life throughout the cosmos: the future of life and the future of our civilization. Springer, Berlin, pp 3–21Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Wang LS (2011) Causal efficacy and the normative notion of sustainability science, vol 7(2) Proquest Fall, NY. http://sspp.proquest.com
  10. 10.
    Sagan C (1961) On the origin and planetary distribution of life. Radiat Res 15:174–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Mathews F (1999) The ecological self. Routledge, Great Britain. ISBN 0-203-00974-6Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    RP Claude, BH Weston (1992) Human rights in the world community: issues and action. In: Falk RA (ed) Theoretical foundations of human rights, pp 31–41 Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ackoff RL (2001) Syst Pract Act Res 14(1):3–10Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hardin G (1968) The tragedy of the commons. Science 162:1243–1248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons, ISBN 0 521 40599 8Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Poteete AR, Ostrom E (2008) Fifteen years of empirical research on collective action in NRM: struggling to build large-N databases based on qualitative research. World Dev 36(1):176–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Clark A (2004) Is language special? some remarks on control, coding and co-ordination. Lang Sci 26(6):717–726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wheeler M (2004) Is language the ultimate artefact? Lang Sci 26(2004):693–715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Levin SA (1995) Scale and Sustainability: a population and community perspective. Munasinghe M, Shearer W (eds) Defining and measuring sustainability: the bio-geophysical foundations. The UN University, New York and The World Bank, USA, pp 103–114Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Goffman E (1959) Presentation of self in everyday life. Doubleday Anchor Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Margulis L (1996) End of Science. Horgan J (ed) Addison Wesley, MA (Chapter 5)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hume D (1994) Dialogues concerning natural religion: the english philosophers from bacon to mill. In: Burtt EA (ed) Random house modern library, New York. p 1779Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gallopin GC (2004) Sustainable development: epistemological challenges to science and technology. ECLAC. ChileGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Galle P (2008) Candidate worldviews for a design theory. Des Stud 29(3):267–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Galle P (1999) Design as intentional action: a conceptual analysis. Des Stud 20(1):57–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Maslow AH (1943) A theory of human motivation. Psychol Rev 50:370–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Aerts D et al (2007) Worldviews: From Fragmentation to Integration. In: Vidal C, Riegler A (eds) Internet edition, Originally published in 1994 by VUB PressGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    van Egmond ND, de Vries HJM (2011) Sustainability: the search for the integral worldview. Futures 43:853–867CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Boulding KE (2004) General systems theory: the skeleton of science. E:CO vol 6 no 1/2, pp 127–139. First published in management science vol 2, no 3, Apr 1956Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Chichilnisky G (1977) Economic development and efficiency criteria in the satisfaction of basic needs. Appl Math Model 1(6):290–297MathSciNetMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Kates RW (ed) (2010) Readings in sustainability science and technology. CID working paper no. 213. Center for International Development, Harvard University. Cambridge, Dec 2010. http://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/cid/publications/faculty-working-papers/cid-working-paperno.-213
  32. 32.
    Camus A (1955) The myth of sisyphusGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Jones JC (1980) Thoughts about the context of designing: in the dimension of time. IPC Business Press, Design studies, pp 172–176Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Papanek V (2005) Design for the real world: human ecology and social change. Academy Chicago Publishers, vol 2, p 394. First Published in (1972), ISBN13: 9780897331531Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Product Design and ManufacturingIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations