Recommended reading: Ten essentials for more impactful climate change and sustainability-related research

To explain how we can understand and navigate our way through a world of change more effectively and ensure knowledge production contributes more directly to societal needs 40 researchers and professionals have contributed to this freely accessible research paper “Ten essentials for action-oriented and second order energy transitions, transformations and climate change research” and brought together different insights from the rich and diverse traditions of action-oriented research.

This work highlights that science is predominantly using approaches that do not sufficiently focus on, and contribute to, learning and understanding about how to achieve transformative change. Mostly, research focuses on understanding problems rather than identifying and examining solutions or their implementation. This can be traced back to the tendency of conventional science and research focuses on abstract knowledge that is teachable, rather than practical know how that is applicable.

For instance, we already know a lot about the problems of climate change. The critical question now, however, is about how to develop innovative, transformative solutions and the knowledge to implement them successfully. The research needed to attain this kind of knowledge requires a different kind of learning. It involves trial and error and practical involvement in actions happening in the real world. To do that, researchers have to acknowledge they are part of the systems (and problems) that need chaining. Scientific approaches that recognize this can access a much wider range and more diverse kinds of knowledge and therefore lead to a deeper and different understanding of the transformative processes that the researchers are indeed part of.

In this research paper ten essentials are highlighted that need to be considered for research and science that aims at a greater impact towards achieving change and sustainability. These essentials are:
1. Focus on transformations to low-carbon, resilient living;
2. Focus on solution processes;
3. Focus on ‘how to’ practical knowledge;
4. Approach research as occurring from within the system being intervened;
5. Work with normative aspects;
6. Seek to transcend current thinking;
7. Take a multi-faceted approach to understand and shape change;
8. Acknowledge the value of alternative roles of researchers;
9. Encourage second-order experimentation; and
10. Be reflexive

The paper shows how these essentials, when to be applied combined, can ultimately accelerate the kinds of learning needed to enhance transformations for sustainability in society. But changes will also be required in the research institutions, the entrenched disciplines and the ways in which knowledge is produced and used.


Bibliographical indication:
Fazey, I., Schäpke, N., Caniglia, G., Patterson, J., Hultman, J., van Mierlo, B., Säwe, F., Wiek, A., Wittmayer, J., Aldunce, P., Al Waer, H., Battacharya, N., Bradbury, H., Carmen, E., Colvin, J., Cvitanovic, C., D’Souza, M., Gopel, M., Goldstein, B., Hämäläinen, T., Harper, G., Henfry, T., Hodgson, A., Howden, M.S., Kerr, A., Klaes, M., Lyon, C., Midgley, G., Moser, S., Mukherjee, N., Müller, K., O’Brien, K., O’Connell, D.A., Olsson, P., Page, G., Reed, M.S., Searle, B., Silvestri, G., Spaiser, V., Strasser, T., Tschakert, P., Uribe-Calvo, N., Waddell, S., Rao-Williams, J., Wise, R., Wolstenholme, R., Woods, M., Wyborn, C. (2018) Ten essentials for action-oriented and second order energy transitions, transformations and climate change research. Energy Research and Social Science 40, 54-70.