Oeko-Institut in Science Year 2012


Networked research geared to sustainable development. Transdisciplinary research which acts as a motor for sustainable innovations in our society. Transboundary research which initiates innovations for environmental and climate protection and resource conservation. Transformation research as a contribution to a knowledge-based society.

Not only “Project Earth: Our Future” of Science Year 2012 and the requirements for a new social contract on sustainability as articulated by the German government’s Advisory Council fall under these guiding principles. The United Nations also made “Education for sustainable development” its guiding concept for the decade between 2005 and 2014. Shortly before the Rio+20 global summit UNESCO also launched the ten-year initiative “Future Earth”, which will promote global sustainability and environmental research.

Transdisciplinary research at Oeko-Institut

For more than thirty years Oeko-Institut has been conducting research on the foundations for sustainable economic activities and living. Researchers from different disciplines are elaborating the foundations, strategies, tools and possible practice-orientated solutions for very different research areas 

The experts carry out their work in multidisciplinary working groups and interdisciplinary research teams. In its corresponding projects transdisciplinarity is not empty rhetoric – it’s daily practice at Oeko-Institut. In recent research projects like “Changing Behaviour”, which investigates motivational strategies for energy efficiency and behaviour, or the “E-Waste Africa” project [in German language], which is developing options to combat the problem of electrical and electronic waste in West Africa, economists are working together with sociologists, and engineers with lawyers, as well as incorporating a variety of quotidian social actors in the process of implementation.

Furthermore they are working in networks in order to expand the research foundations for more sustainability and to provide policy with recommendations for making sustainability a reality in industry and society. A working group at Oeko-Institut strategically combines the subject areas of research on sustainable transformation and further develops new methods and tools in practice.

Ecornet and NaWis – Networks strengthen sustainability research

Since 2011 Oeko-Institut has been a member of Ecornet (Ecological Research Network), the network of non-university, non-profit environmental and sustainability research institutes in Germany. Together the Ecornet institutes are pursuing the goal of creating the scientific and research foundation for social transformations towards sustainability.

The seven institutes – Ecologic Institute, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg (ifeu), Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), ISOE - Institute for Social-Ecological Re-search, Oeko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology), UfU Independent Institute for Environmental Issues and Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy – conduct practice-oriented research beyond the boundaries of scientific disciplines on ways towards a post-fossil-fuel and post-nuclear society.

Further information on the participation of Oeko-Institut in the Ecornet network. [in German language]

The German Alliance for Sustainability Research (Verbund für Nachhaltige Wissenschaft, NaWis) – founded by the University of Kassel, the Leuphana University Lüneburg and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy and since January 2012 in cooperation with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies – has also set the goal of supporting transdisciplinary sustainability research in Germany. The objective is to discuss and research climate and environmental challenges in a way which goes beyond the traditional boundaries of research disciplines.

Oeko-Institut is supporting the NaWis framework programme for the Science Year, is participating in discussions and its annual conference in 2012, which is focusing on the key question “‘Energiewende’ – How can the transformation of the energy system be a success?”[in German language], is part of the NaWis series of events.

Further information on the German Alliance for Sustainability Research (NaWis) [in German language]

Transdisciplinary knowledge for a sustainable society: Memorandum on the expansion of social-ecological research

Leading actors in transdisciplinary sustainability research, including Oeko-Institut, have presented a memorandum on the promotion of social-ecological research. The memorandum entitled "Understand – Assess – Shape. Transdisciplinary knowledge for a sustainable society" is advocating the systematic deepening and – organisationally, institutionally and in terms of its content – the expansion of social-ecological research in the coming years.

The solution to global problems like climate change, environmental destruction or food security requires fundamental transformations of our society. In order to be able to meet these existential and new types of challenges we need new knowledge – on the emergence of problems, possible solutions and paths for their implementation.

“To create this knowledge and to broaden it beyond the traditional boundaries of research disciplines has always been the goal of social-ecological research”, says Dr. Rainer Grießhammer, a member of the Oeko-Insitut’s Executive Board. “To date several hundred people have signed the memorandum. Together we are sending a signal for the continuation and intensification of this work for sustainable development.”

The memorandum was given to the German Research Minister Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan in June 2012; in autumn she will receive the full list of signatures.

Click here for the list of signatories of the memorandum and a link to sign it.

German federal states bolstering sustainability research

In different German federal states like Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia sustainability research is to be more explicitly supported: Bauer, the Education Minister for Baden-Württemberg, established a “Science for Sustainability” group of experts. Since June 2012 Dr. Bettina Brohmann, Research Coordinator for Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research at Oeko-Institut, has been a member of the expert group which, on behalf of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts, aims to elaborate recommendations for further support of sustainability in teaching, research and the operation of universities.

In spring 2013 the researchers will unveil programmatic advice for better networking – also with regard to the public. The aim is to bridge the gap between practical applications and theoretical research.

Further information (in German) on the “Science for Sustainability” expert group in cooperation with Oeko-Institut can be found here.

Further information on transdisciplinary sustainability research at Oeko-Institut

Dr. Bettina Brohmann 
Research Coordinator for Transdisciplinary Studies 
Nuclear Engineering & Facility Safety 
Oeko-Institut e.V., Darmstadt office 
Tel. +49-6151/8191-0 

Michael Sailer 
Oeko-Institut e.V., Berlin office 
Tel. +49-30/405085-120 

Dr. Rainer Grießhammer Member of the Executive Board DirectorsSustainable Products & Material Flows Oeko-Institut e.V., Freiburg head office Tel. +49-761/45295-250 E-Mail