Collective and care-full transformations for sustainability science

As transdisciplinary science progresses on the question of how to develop more sustainable, equitable and just social-ecological systems, it has become apparent that the way we generate knowledge also needs to be transformed to engage with the diverse worldviews that reduce or homogenise “science”. Over the last few years, a growing number of researchers have been calling for and experimenting with innovative caring practices of working in academia, particularly in TSS 1–4. In parallel, an increasing number of researchers in TSS have pleaded for creating more diverse workplaces that actively include minorities, such as women, inter*, trans* or non-binary people 5,6, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) 7–10 or people with disabilities 11,12.
To achieve widespread and care-full transformations in TSS and PBSESR, we need to (1) learn from existing bright spots -i.e. institutes, projects, research groups that are applying (often with reflexive process work) care-full and inclusive practices, (2) amplify and scale their practices, insights and lessons, (3) identify the processes that foster care-full, inclusive and just transformative scientific practices. With this WG, we aim to not only ‘walk the talk’, but also to create a social movement (a network of networks) to foster change in academia, particularly in TSS and PBSESR.

Key research questions:

  • 1) What are the challenges and obstacles to practicing care and collaboration in Transformative Sustainability Science (TSS) and place-based social-ecological systems research (PBSESR)?
    • a) Why do we need caring practices (for ourselves, for other academics and others outside academia) and how can we establish them (who needs to provide and receive care)?
    • b) What are the factors that enable and hinder the success of caring collaborations (care providers and recipients, scales, governance structures, contextual settings, ways of providing care)?
  •  2) What care-full science transformations have worked in different scientific contexts, such as projects, academic institutions, institutes or collectives on TSS and PBSESR?
    • a) To what extent have past science transformations involved care and collaboration?
    • b) Which knowledge can be transferred to other academic and research contexts?
  • 3) How can sustainability sciences transformations be amplified through caring practices?
    • a) What are the solutions and leverage points for fostering care-full transformations in TSS and PBSESR? How can those processes overcome the challenges identified in question 1?
    • b) How can the solutions be articulated and put into action to enable thriving TSS and PBSESR for different research fields and on both, institutional and individual levels? Who are the change agents to be addressed and the skills to be learned?

Working Group Coordinators:

We propose a rotation of coordinators between collectives as a caring practice, therefore two different persons will coordinate the group each year:

  • Year 1: Jamila Haider – Stockohlm Resilience Centre, Sweden & Andrea Rawluk -University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Year 2: Cristina Quintas-Soriano – University of Almería, Spain & + Guido Caniglia – Konrad Lorenz institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Austria
  • Year 3: Sasha Kosanic – Liverpool John Moores University, UK & Isabel Díaz-Reviriego – Leuphana University, Germany

Working Group Participants:

  • María Felipe-Lucia – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ and German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Germany
  • Sonia Graham – University of Wollongong, Australia
  • Jamila Haider- Stockohlm Resilience Centre, Sweden
  • Maria Kernecker – Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Germany
  • Mónica Hernández- Morcillo – University for Sustainalbe Development (HNEE), Germany
  • Berta Martín-López – Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
  • Maraja Riechers – Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
  • Federica Ravera – University of Girona, Spain
  • Marina Garcia Llorente – Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
  • Violeta Hevia – Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
  • Elisa Oteros Rozas – FRACTAL, Spain
  • Irene Iniesta Arandia – FRACTAL, Spain
  • Paula Satizabal – University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Andrea Babon – University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Carolina Contreras – University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Charlotte Ponzelar –  Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Chris Ives – University of Nottingham, UK


1. Care, O. et al. Creating leadership collectives for sustainability transformations. Sustain Sci 16, 703–708 (2021).

2. Pascoe, S., Sanders, A., Rawluk, A., Satizábal, P. & Toumbourou, T. Intervention – “Holding Space for Alternative Futures in Academia and Beyond”. Antipode Online
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3. Sellberg, M. M., Cockburn, J., Holden, P. B. & Lam, D. P. M. Towards a caring transdisciplinary research practice: navigating science, society and self. Ecosystems and People 17, 292–305 (2021).

4. Staffa, R. K., Riechers, M. & Martín-López, B. A feminist ethos for caring knowledge production in transdisciplinary sustainability science. Sustain Sci (2021)

5. Kalpazidou Schmidt, E. & Cacace, M. Addressing gender inequality in science: the multifaceted challenge of assessing impact. Research Evaluation 26, 102–114 (2017).

6. Huang, J., Gates, A. J., Sinatra, R. & Barabási, A.-L. Historical comparison of gender inequality in scientific careers across countries and disciplines. PNAS 117, 4609–4616 (2020).

7. Laland, K. N. Racism in academia, and why the ‘little things’ matter. Nature 584, 653–654 (2020).

8. Cronin, M. R. et al. Anti-racist interventions to transform ecology, evolution and conservation biology departments. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 1213–1223 (2021).

9. Schusler, T. M. et al. Students of colour views on racial equity in environmental sustainability. Nat Sustain 4, 975–982 (2021).

10. Trisos, C. H., Auerbach, J. & Katti, M. Decoloniality and anti-oppressive practices for a more ethical ecology. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 1205–1212 (2021).

11. Clouder, L. et al. Neurodiversity in higher education: a narrative synthesis. High Educ 80, 757–778 (2020).

12. Tuosto, K. et al. Making science accessible. Science 367, 34–35 (2020).




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