The World as a Lab – GAIA special issue on experimental formats for transdisciplinary sustainability research

A detailed and deep insight in the work and effects of real-world laboratories is given in the latest GAIA special issue with the title „Labs in the Real World“. Questions on transdisciplinarity and different dimensions of learning are addressed, as well as the transformative potential of real-world laboratories as research concept regarding empirical and theoretical aspects of the sustainability studies.

How can processes of societal transformation in the direction of a sustainable development be understood and enhanced using experimental methods? To explain this, scientists work together with local stakeholders from business, politics, administration and civil society on specific social ecological changes. Since 2015, the Ministry for Science, Research and Art of the state Baden-Württemberg is funding the work of the 14 real-world laboratories, out of which many experiences are incorporated in this special issue. The aim is to establish so called „learning spaces“, in which the social attitude, questions and needs of all participants and stakeholders can be addressed. With the wishes and the insider knowledge of these local people effective and accepted solutions for transformation processes, from urban redevelopment of a neighbourhood to sustainable mobility systems, can be found.

The articles are written in English and were compiled by the scientists of the accompanying research team for the real-world laboratories in Baden-Württemberg, consisting of the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE), the Leuphana University Lüneburg and the Wuppertal Institute. In addition to concrete application references on site, the conditions of success of real-world laboratories are described, as well as their scientific and methodological potential as a whole.  Editor for GAIA, Ortwin Renn, summarizes it as follows:

Real-world labs are a viable and promising concept for realizing the vision of transdisciplinary research.

All contributions of the special issue are open access and can be found on Ingenta.