Rethinking science for sustainable development: Reflexive interaction for a paradigm transformation

Kläy, Andreas; Zimmermann, Anne; Schneider, Flurina (2015). Rethinking science for sustainable development: Reflexive interaction for a paradigm transformation. Futures, 65, pp. 72-85. Elsevier 10.1016/j.futures.2014.10.012

Text (Kläy et al 2014, post-print version)
Kläy-at-al-2014-Rethinking-science-for-sustainable-development-ACCEPTED-article-in-FUTURES.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (318kB) | Preview
[img] Text
Kläy-et-al-2015-Rethinking-science-for-sustainable-development-FOR-PERSONAL-USE-ONLY.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (560kB) | Request a copy

If we postulate a need for the transformation of society towards sustainable development, we also need to transform science and overcome the fact/value split that makes it impossible for science to be accountable to society. The orientation of this paradigm transformation in science has been under debate for four decades, generating important theoretical concepts, but they have had limited impact until now. This is due to a contradictory normative science policy framing that science has difficulties dealing with, not least of all because the dominant framing creates a lock-in. We postulate that in addition to introducing transdisciplinarity, science needs to strive for integration of the normative aspect of sustainable development at the meta-level. This requires a strategically managed niche within which scholars and practitioners from many different disciplines can engage in a long-term common learning process, in order to become a “thought collective” (Fleck) capable of initiating the paradigm transformation. Arguing with Piaget that “decentration” is essential to achieve normative orientation and coherence in a learning collective, we introduce a learning approach—Cohn's “Theme-Centred Interaction”—which provides a methodology for explicitly working with the objectivity and subjectivity of statements and positions in a “real-world” context, and for consciously integrating concerns of individuals in their interdependence with the world. This should enable a thought collective to address the epistemological and ethical barriers to science for sustainable development.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Kläy, Andreas; Zimmermann, Anne and Schneider, Flurina






[UNSPECIFIED] Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern


[UNSPECIFIED] Education for Sustainable Development




Anne Zimmermann

Date Deposited:

15 Dec 2014 10:55

Last Modified:

01 Apr 2015 15:38

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Sustainable development, Values, Transformative science, Transdisciplinarity, Learning, Ethics in science, Human dignity




Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback