Transdisciplinary studies are nothing new

Editorial by Michael Sailer, CEO, Oeko-Institut

If I were asked when the Oeko-Institut started transdisciplinary working – that is, discussing the challenges of conservation with all stakeholders from society and the scientific community – I would say: on Day One. That is because the very first analyses done by our scientists in the 1970s were the product of the joint efforts of citizens’ action groups, environmental lawyers and alternative research. Our experts took other people’s knowledge and recombined it; spokespersons for environmental groups as well as other people brought this information to the policy-making table. I can say with confidence that our work at the Oeko-Institut was already transdisciplinary even before the term came into use.

Our last major review of the topic of transdisciplinary sustainability research was in our 2012 Annual Report. In this issue of eco@work we examine the subject again from various angles. We show how we used a transdiscipinary approach to our project work then and now, and also give a colleague from outside the Institute the chance to comment. In her guest contribution Dr. Kora Kristof from the German Federal Environment Agency explains what is needed to make a successful transition to more sustainability.

At the Oeko-Institut we are convinced of this: there are viable paths to change. However, a lot of partners are needed, all pulling together, to achieve it. Each has a different responsibility and different backgrounds in terms of knowledge and experience – but each is essential to the overall picture and to a successful outcome. At the Oeko-Institut this is always at the heart of our day-to-day working: we cooperate here across different disciplines, conducting intensive discussions and always seeking the best solution. The last time the entire Institute was able to do this was at Königsstein im Taunus in May. Every two years all our staff get together for a conference where we can exchange ideas about our work, the way the Institute sees itself, and future tasks.

I hope you find the new eco@work fascinating, and wish you a restful summer.

Michael Sailer
CEO, Oeko-Institut