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Research Priorities for Sustainability Science

Position Paper German Committee Future Earth

The German Committee Future Earth (Deutsches Komitee für Nachhaltigkeitsforschung in Future Earth, DKN) is an independent scientific advisory body of the German Research Foundation (DFG). At the same time, it is the national contact point and platform for developments and activities within the international research program for global sustainability "Future Earth" and the "World Climate Research Programme" (WCRP). The DKN fosters interdisciplinary, integrative sustainability research in both a national and international context and thus promotes cooperation between the disciplines. It also offers to the German scientific community a platform for exchange and networking related to sustainability research and promotes its further development.

Research Priorities for Sustainability Science Position Paper

With this position paper the DKN highlights pertinent research gaps and suggests forthcoming fields of research. It combines insights from global environmental change research and the environmental social sciences and humanities. This programmatic framework will form the basis of the future work program of the committee itself. Furthermore, it is hoped that it will motivate other scientists to engage across disciplinary boundaries with the manifold epistemological, theoretical, and methodological challenges of sustainability science. This contribution addresses agents in science, science management, and science funding in a national and an international context.
An earlier version of this paper was discussed at the German Sustainability Science Summit 2021 (German Committee Future Earth, 2021). Comments from these discussions are added as an appendix of this publication.
The paper consists of six chapters on different research areas, each followed by open research questions (RQs). Chapter 2 (“Approaches and goals of sustainability research”, RQs on page 9) discusses the foundations for sustainability research as an essential takeoff point of the work within DKN. Following this discussion of the different conceptual approaches, chapter 3 (“How to attain sustainable development? Transformative change is key”, RQs on page 12) focuses on different trajectories regarding how to attain sustainable development. Chapter 4 (“Scales as challenges in climate change, adaptation, and sustainable development research”, RQs on page 15) discusses challenges regarding spatial, temporal and functional scales as cross-cutting topics. Chapter 5 (“Extreme events and resilience: relations to human health, well-being and social cohesion”, RQs on page 20) treats interlinkages, synergies and tradeoffs between extreme events, societal resilience, individual health and well-being, and social cohesion for designing pathways towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Linkages between biodiversity, food production, human nutrition, dietary behavior and health are discussed in chapter 6 (“Food systems, biodiversity, and health”, RQs on page 22) and in chapter 7 (“Dietary transformations towards sustainability”, RQs on page 24). The paper closes with a chapter on conclusions and outlook.

Source: Jacob, D., Birkmann, J., Bollig, M., Bonn, A., Nöthlings, U., Ott, K., Quaas, M., Reichstein, M., Scholz, I., Malburg-Graf, B., Sonntag, S. (2022): Research priorities for sustainability science. German Committee Future Earth, Hamburg, Germany.