It is urgent in science and society to address
climate change and other sustainability challenges such as
biodiversity loss, deforestation, depletion of marine fish
stocks, global ill-health, land degradation, land use change
and water scarcity. Sustainability science (SS) is an attempt
to bridge the natural and social sciences for seeking creative
solutions to these complex challenges. In this article,
we propose a research agenda that advances the
methodological and theoretical understanding of what SS
can be, how it can be pursued and what it can contribute.
The key focus is on knowledge structuring. For that purpose,
we designed a generic research platform organised as
a three-dimensional matrix comprising three components:
core themes (scientific understanding, sustainability goals,
sustainability pathways); cross-cutting critical and problem-
solving approaches; and any combination of the sustainability
challenges above. As an example, we insert four
sustainability challenges into the matrix (biodiversity loss,
climate change, land use changes, water scarcity). Based on
the matrix with the four challenges, we discuss three issues
for advancing theory and methodology in SS: how new
synergies across natural and social sciences can be created;
how integrated theories for understanding and responding
to complex sustainability issues can be developed; and how
theories and concepts in economics, gender studies, geography,
political science and sociology can be applied in SS.
The generic research platform serves to structure and create
new knowledge in SS and is a tool for exploring any set of
sustainability challenges. The combined critical and problem-
solving approach is essential.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-82
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science (011010000), Department of Political Science (012015000), Theoretical Philosophy (015001002), Human Ecology (012006010), LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies) (016508030), Department of Human Geography (LUR000049), Sociology of Law (012011000)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society
  • Political Science
  • Human Geography
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Critical research
  • Sustainability pathways
  • Problem-solving research
  • Sustainability challenges
  • Climate change


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