Jointly experimenting for transformation? Shaping real-world laboratories by comparing them

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Real-world laboratories (RwLs, German Reallabore) belong to a family of increasingly popular experimental and transdisciplinary research approaches at the science-society interface. As these approaches in general, and RwLs in particular, often lack clear definitions of key characteristics and their operationalization, we make two contributions in this article. First, we identify five core characteristics of RwLs: contribution to transformation, experimental methods, transdisciplinary research mode, scalability and transferability of results, as well as scientific and societal learning and reflexivity. Second, we compare RwLs to similar research approaches according to the five characteristics. In this way, we provide an orientation on experimental and transdisciplin ary research for societal transformations, and reveal the contributions of this type of research in supporting societal change. Our findings enable learning across the different approaches and highlight their complementarities, with a particular focus on RwLs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-96
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2018

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts Baden-Württemberg for funding the research leading to this article. Furthermore, we thank two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful remarks on an earlier version of this article.

    Research areas

  • Living labs, Real-world laboratory, Reallabor, Societal transformations, Sustainability transitions, Transdisciplinarity, Transformation labs, Urban transition labs
  • Sustainability Science