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Christian Preiswerk
Science and Society Division
Casa delle Accademie
Laupenstrasse 7
3008 Berna

Who is doing research on sustainability transformations?

A search using the snowball method shows the following: Researchers who mention sustainability transformations in their projects, publications, or research interests may be found at virtually all institutions of higher education in Switzerland. They are active in the following research fields:

  • Energy, electricity, mobility
  • Biodiversity, environmental protection, ecology
  • Agriculture
  • Spatial planning and development, land management, (landscape) architecture
  • North–South relations, migration
  • Sustainable consumption, sustainable behaviour
  • Economics, finance, industrial dynamics
  • Organizational studies, leadership
  • Sociology
  • Governance
  • Philosophy
  • Art, video
  • Transdisciplinarity

A list of projects on sustainability transformations by researchers from the Academies network may be found here:

Transboundary research partnerships between researchers and practitioners from different countries have a long tradition in the exploration of sustainability transformations.

Examples of North–South research partnerships:

The Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) calls, among other things, for funding applications not to be assessed (solely) on the basis of impact factors, but rather to consider the research output in its entirety (incl. scientific outreach, conference contributions, collaboration with stakeholders).

The Better Science Initiative promotes a scientific culture characterized by fairness, respect, diversity, and holistic assessment. Among other things, it articulates ten calls to action for science culture.

The global Transformations Community brings together experienced (action) researchers and professionals to advance transformations towards sustainability.

Co-founded by Swiss researchers, the international “Sustainability Transitions Network” promotes transition research through knowledge building, education, exchange, and outreach.

“Theatre of Transformation - Enacting Global Transformation” seeks to challenge dominant paradigms and shape new paradigms that promote sustainability. It brings together academics, decision-makers, practitioners, and other interested parties.

At the international level, there are funding programmes that specifically support research on sustainability transformations, such as the “Transformation to Sustainability” programme or “Cofund Urban Transformation Capacities”.

In Switzerland, there is currently no research funding tailored explicitly to sustainability transformations. However, the recommendations for funding opportunities offered by the Sustainable Research Initiative (SRI), the Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE), and the Network for Transdisciplinary Research (td-net) may also be useful for research on sustainability transformations.

This list is not complete. Do you have suggestions for additions? Please contact: .

Where can I find relevant literature on sustainability transformations?

In early 2022, we asked researchers in the SCNAT network about the most relevant literature on transformation research or transformative research. A heterogeneous picture emerges.

Several of the articles mentioned in the survey are published in the journals “GAIA – Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society” and “Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions”.

How do transformation processes occur? The following publications provide an overview of concepts and explanatory approaches.

Differentiation between structural, systemic, and enabling approaches:

Three ways of understanding social transformations to sustainability
Immagine: International Science Council 2021, referring to Scoones et al. 2020

The International Science Council has summarized the findings of Scoones et al. (2020) in a Knowledge Brief.

Distinguishing between three conceptual frameworks on transformations:

  • Transformations in socio-ecological systems
  • Socio-technical transitions
  • Socio-economic transformations

The European Environment Agency describes these frameworks as well as two other perspectives, summarized for Swiss audiences by Bader et al. (2019).

Literature tips on the meaning of various terms may be found here: