1a. Theoretical Approaches

NB! This track text is confirmed and approved by track chairs

Track Chairs

Goals and Objectives of the Track

Sustainability sciences focus on developing responses to the grand societal challenges, recognizing complex interconnections between humans and nature on a finite planet. They link research and practice, local and global scales, past, present and futures, as well as disciplines across the social sciences, natural sciences, life sciences and applied sciences (Clark and Harley, 2020; Fang et al., 2018). Sustainability sciences are fundamentally inter- and transdisciplinary, engaging academic, practitioner, and community perspectives, and integrating diverse conceptual frameworks and theoretical perspectives.

In this track we invite participants for discussions and propositions to advance the theoretical basis of the sustainability sciences. We welcome contributions that draw on descriptive, normative or prescriptive approaches to inform the development of theory, bringing together different knowledge to address sustainability challenges. Methodological reflections or propositions for new methods and tools as well as lateral thinking are also invited.

We look for contributions that provide novel and inspiring insights on the theoretical and methodological prerequisites and implications of the ambitious scientific project of the sustainability sciences, including but not limited to the following overall aspects:

  • Normativity: Interrogating norms and ethics concerning e.g. sustainability, regeneration, post-growth, planetary justice, interspecies justice, etc.
  • Ontologies: Engaging with interdisciplinary ontologzuical cross-over and tensions, relational turn and new materialism, assembleage, spatiality, etc.
  • Epistemologies: Drawing on and advancing post-normal science, post-colonialism, post-foundationalism, transdisciplinarity, etc.
  • Systems thinking: Exploring interdisciplinary (social-ecological-technological) system understandings, systems modelling, systems ecology, etc.
  • Transformations: Conceptualizing transition dynamics and ex-/innovation processes, social learning and upscaling, transformative capacity, …
  • Open Topic: Other relevant aspects of sustainability science theory and methodology


Length and content of the proposed abstract to the track

Each proposed abstract of between 300 and 500 words

  1. shall be organized without headlines following usual structures (e.g., problem/method/results/discussion/conclusions)
  2. should provide references (not counting for word limit)
  3. shall additionally indicate in a final paragraph:
  4. which SDG(s) and SDG-target(s) they relate to
  5. how the proposed contribution relates to the overall topic of the Conference (“Half-way through Agenda 2030: Assessing the 5Ps of SDGs (people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership)


Clark, W.C., Harley, A.G., 2020. Sustainability Science: Toward a Synthesis. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 45, 331–386. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-012420-043621

Fang, X., Zhou, B., Tu, X., Ma, Q., Wu, J., 2018. “What Kind of a Science is Sustainability Science?” An Evidence-Based Reexamination. Sustainability 10, 1478. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051478