Stepping stone or stumbling block? : Mode 2 knowledge production in sustainability science

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Abstract

The concept of Mode 2 was developed in order to further our understanding of processes of knowledge production taking place between and beyond disciplinary structures (inter- and transdisciplinary processes) and “in a context of application”. The concept has often been seen as especially applicable to fields addressing grand challenges, such as cli- mate change, poverty eradication, and global health. Being a relatively new field—interdisciplinary in its approach, and focused on addressing such issues—sustainability science would appear to be a case in point. The aim of this paper is twofold: 1) to explore the perceived relation be- tween Mode 2 and sustainability science, and 2) to advance the discussion of Mode 2 from a philosophical perspective. To address these questions we focus on three characteristic features of Mode 2: the notion of a distinct, but evolving framework; boundary crossing; and a problem solving capacity “on the move”. In particular we discuss the descrip- tive and normative implications of Mode 2 and different understandings of the Mode 2 framework. We report the results of a survey carried out amongst leading sustainability scientists in which they answered questions on Mode 2 and sustainability science. The survey gives insight into both their perception of Mode 2 and their perception of their own field of sustainability science, as well as on the relation between the two. In our analysis, we emphasize the free text answers. These reveal a tension within the field of sustainability science; with developments both to- wards Mode 1 and Mode 2 science as well as towards a more unificationist interpretation. To further complicate the picture, there would also seem to be a tension in the interpretations of Mode 2, and we conclude that the implementation of inter- and transdisciplinarity is challenged by institutional and conceptual factors alike. Even though it is not impossible to achieve; inter- and transdisciplinarity seem to represent a great challenge in itself and the answer as to whether or not inter- and transdisciplinarity is the (sole) solution to the grand challenges of today is likely to be more complex than is generally acknowledged.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy

Keywords

  • sustainability science, Mode 2 knowledge production, transdisciplinarity
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Early online date2015 Dec 10
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes