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Sustainability Science

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 789–800

Concepts, Methodology, and Knowledge Management for Sustainability Science


Given that research on sustainable development usually relates to real-world challenges, it requires researchers to align scientific knowledge production with concrete societal problem situations. To empirically explore how researchers frame scientific contributions when designing and planning projects, we conducted a qualitative study on land use–related projects based on the methodology of grounded theory. We identified major influence factors and various types of research design. Among the factors that influence project framing, scientific considerations were found to be more important than expected. Core characteristics of project framings concerned a type of scientific contributions envisaged; b real-world sustainability challenges addressed, and c researchers’ conceptions of how knowledge would reach its addressees. Three different types of project framing were found, suggesting that framing strongly depends on the researchers’ perception of how well a real-world problem situation is understood scientifically and how strongly are societal actors aware of the problem and act upon it. The spectrum of how researchers planned that knowledge would reach its addressees comprised communicating results to interactive conceptions allowing for mutual learning throughout the research process. The typology reveals a variety of useful and promising project framings for sustainable development research. The typology may serve to reconcile conceptual ideals and expectations with researchers’ realities.

KeywordsSustainability research Project framing Research design Science–policy nexus Grounded theory Science studies Handled by Masaru Yarime, Graduate School of Public Policy GraSPP, University of Tokyo, Japan.

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Autor: Gabriela Wuelser - Christian Pohl


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