What Epistemology for Sustainability Science? Experiments and Theories for Social Transformation

Project: Research

Project participants


EPISUS is funded by a Horizon 2020/Marie Sklodowska-Curie Incoming Fellowship. The Fellow is Guido Caniglia from Italy. Leuphana is acting as host institution and Professor Daniel Lang as scientific mentor.
Project description:
Sustainability science is an innovative research field dealing with complex socio-ecological problems of our time, from climate change and rapid urbanization to pandemics and loss of biodiversity. A major goal for sustainability science is to support societal transformations towards sustainability by generating, testing, and integrating (1) system knowledge about sustainability problems, (2) target knowledge about desirable futures, and (3) transformational knowledge about effective interventions that can lead from the problems detected to the desirable futures. Thus far, epistemological work has focused primarily on the foundations of system and target knowledge and has neglected transformational knowledge. Therefore, a major task for an epistemology of sustainability science is now to understand how transformational knowledge is generated and tested. Because of the central role they play in transformational sustainability science, in EPISUS, Guido Caniglia takes transformational experiments as entrance point to develop an epistemology of transformational sustainability science. He asks: What kind of sustainability science do we need to generate and test transformational knowledge and what role can transformational experiments play in this science? In EPISUS, Guido Caniglia addresses this question by focusing on: 1. the main characteristics of transformational experiments, 2. the criteria used to evaluate experimental results and 3. the kind of theories that support, or could support, the production of transformational knowledge. He uses a research design that combines the investigation of concrete examples of transformational experiments and conceptual reflections using analytical tools from the philosophy of science. EPISUS will provide a new conceptualization of transformational experiments as well as categories for the further development of transformational approaches in sustainability science that are theoretically sound and evidence-based.