Sustainability Science at UiB

CROP, HEMIL, UiB Global, the Geophysical Institute and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research are currently collaborating in the discussion, design and implementation of research projects focused on global challenges of great importance for contemporary society. Such challenges include poverty, health, climate change and sustainable development. Sustainability science and trans-disciplinarity are core elements of this joint initiative, which intends to advance this field not only within UiB but also in its international endeavours.

Sustainability Science has been defined as “an emerging field of research dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet’s life support systems.[1]”.

Collaborating institutions at UiB agree that trans-disciplinary approaches are appropriate tools to bridge scientific fields, capture their interaction and root research in society while addressing the most pressing challenges of our time. Trans-disciplinary research is defined here as research conducted by investigators from different disciplines working jointly with relevant society agents to create new conceptual, methodological and practical innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem.

Sustainability Science is a field that by definition addresses practical problems in the natural and social worlds. The field’s build-in emphasis on addressing practical problems makes it uniquely well suited to addressing the global problems of development, environmental change and social justice.

The roots of Sustainability Science can be found in the academic discussions of the 1980s, the Brundtland Commission’s U.N. report, World Commission on Environment and Development report in 1987 and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Sustainability Science emerged as a distinct field in the early 2000s when it was incorporated into the International Council for Science. Dedicated mediums for publication were created, networks of institutional collaboration were established and distinct Sustainability Science curricula were developed at multiple institutions.

The field is unique in that it emerged globally and it is being constructed without significant direction from any one central authority or source. Hubs of research include not only the traditional centres of academic research in Western Europe, Japan and the United States but also institutions located in the BRICS countries as well as the Global South. Furthermore, research has been dispersed across universities and research institutions dealing with diverse scientific disciplines. Currently, the co-ordinating team at UiB is initiating a pilot project to map Sustainability Science in the world (Link to the maps)



[1] National Academy of Sciences, PNAS