Impacts beyond experimentation - Conceptualising emergent impacts from long-term real-world laboratory processes

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Real-world laboratories have become a recognised research format for addressing sustainability challenges. In these transdisciplinary settings, actors from civil society, local government, and academia work together using a transdisciplinary research approach to jointly experiment and learn about sustainability transformations. While these labs are considered to have potential, their impact has not yet been fully measured. Therefore, in our paper we explore the case of the Zukunftsstadt Lüneburg 2030+ process to uncover the impacts that this long-term effort has generated over the past eight years. By examining the process and its design features from three analytical perspectives, we identify emergent impacts in three dimensions: education, governance, and the lab as an actor for sustainability. Based on our case study, we suggest that real-world labs contribute to sustainability on a local level, beyond the intentional experiments, through impacts that emerge over the course of the joint operation of the lab.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society
Issue numberSupplement 1
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 16.03.2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgement: We thank all the people who have been involved for many years in jointly shaping and carrying out collaborative real-world lab work in and around Lüneburg. We especially thank our colleague Antje Seidel for her contribution to the development of this article and collaborative work in recent years within the Zukunftsstadt Lüneburg 2030+ project. Furthermore, we would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their time and effort in reviewing the manuscript. We sincerely appreciate their comments, which have helped us to improve this article. Funding: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), funder id: 10.13039/501100002347 (grant no: 13ZS0058B). Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests. Author contribution: PB, AW, TK: research design, original draft of the manuscript; PB, AW, TK, DL: final manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 by the authors.

    Research areas

  • emergent impact, process design, real-world laboratory, transdisciplinary sustainability research, transformative research Leuphana
  • Transdisciplinary studies