Knowledge is a central precondition for sustainable development. However, the connection between knowledge and action demands a closer look. Science and universities are called upon to take on social-ecological transitions as research topics. In this context, further questions regarding science policy arise: What kind of sustainability research do we need, and what should its relation to society, economy and politics be in order to master global social-ecological challenges of the future? What are the implications for universities if they work under the guiding principles of sustainable development? Is there a “sustainable science” as such? And, finally, in what way does the science system have to change to enable and support transitions toward sustainable development?
One consequence appears certain: If science identifies ways out of the crisis, i.e. if it generates knowledge for transitions toward sustainable development, it will be confronted with institutional knowledge and the experiences of various actors from politics, economy, and civil society. Often, the relation between this kind of knowledge and scientific knowledge is unclear or even controversial. This tension also applies to the relation between basic research and application-orientated research as well as to the relation between university and non-university research.
The yearly ISOE-lecture takes place in the winter semester and addresses these and other questions concerning sustainability research. With respect to the issue of how to successfully manage transitions toward sustainable development and the role of universities and science in this matter, the lecture seeks to provide thought-provoking impulses for students and young scientists.