Science

Sustainability Science

Today's unsustainable lifestyles, production and consumption patterns are resource-intensive and polluting. Escalating global change leaves little time to create a sustainable long-term socio-economic model.

Today's unsustainable lifestyles, production and consumption patterns are resource-intensive and polluting. Escalating global change leaves little time to create a sustainable long-term socio-economic model. Rapid and effective change requires more knowledge, not only about new technologies and sectoral adaptation strategies, but also about system contexts and goals, as well as the design of transformation processes. The German Commission for UNESCO is committed to reorienting our science system to strengthen the contribution of science to solving global challenges.

Sustainability Science means structurally and methodologically adjusted forms of scientific work such that they may contribute to addressing major sustainability challenges. Structural and methodological aptitude can mean a dedicated problem orientation, an iterative approach, and an awareness of scale, network, tipping point, and feedback effects, as well as the uncertainty given to socio-ecological systems. The result of should research should strengthen society's ability to act. In general, a transnational or even global and intergenerational perspective is appropriate. Uncertainty and limits of scientific knowledge have to be disclosed to indicate potential conflicts of interest.

Sustainability Science usually requires interdisciplinary and / or transdisciplinary work. At the same time, it needs disciplinary research and in particular basic research. It is often necessary to combine the methods and knowledge of the humanities and social sciences on the one hand, and the natural and engineering sciences on the other hand. Transdisciplinary research also aims to integrate actors outside the science system, such as companies, trade unions, associations, the public sector, stakeholders or NGOs (co-design, co-production of knowledge).
 
In 2012, the German Commission for UNESCO adopted the Memorandum Science for Sustainable Development, addressing the German science system. In 2014, it addressed synergies between transdisciplinary sustainability research and development cooperation. The Scientific Advisory Board of the UN Secretary-General, whose first meeting was organized by the German Commission for UNESCO in 2014, also worked intensively on science for sustainable development.

From 2014 to 2016, the German Commission for UNESCO specifically promoted science for sustainability in Central and Eastern Europe by hosting expert workshops for a well-founded exchange on sustainability and science strategies. From 2015 to 2017, DUK also invited to a Round Table Science for Sustainability in the German Science System.

On a global level, the German Commission for UNESCO has been working from 2015 to 2017 to promote the concept of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary Sustainability Science by UNESCO. This project culminated in the “UNESCO Guidelines on Sustainability Science in Research and Education”, which were presented in October 2017 in Paris. These guidelines are the most important consensus document to date on science for sustainable development worldwide.