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Wozu Umweltforschung? – Über das Spannungsverhältnis zwischen Forschungstraditionen und umweltpolitischen Leitbildern

Teil I: Das Beispiel "Ökologische Chemie"

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We investigate the kinds of questions asked by environmental scientists. To this end, we describe the orientation of scientific research by posing four questions: What is the lack of knowledge to be addressed by the research? What is the purpose of the results? What are the subjects the research is dealing with? What are the methods chosen for the investigation? We propose that problem-oriented environmental science should strive to find answers to these questions that are different from those offered by "classical" natural sciences. As a focus of our study, we select four fields where the answers to the orienting questions are relevant: (1) reflexivity and "reflexive science" (Ulrich Beck), (2) dealing with uncertainty and missing knowledge, (3) competing internal scientific goals and external orientations such as sustainability, (4) the relationship between environmental sciences and politics. As a case study, we investigate the historical development of ecological chemistry. This development can be divided into three phases: an initial phase, an independent phase, and a re-orientation phase. Different internal and external orientations governed the scientific research in these three phases. This example provides insight into the problem of competing internal and external orientations; as a possible solution, we propose a scientific orientation open to societal concerns (to be continued in a follow-up paper).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2001

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  • GAIA is a peer-reviewed inter- and transdisciplinary journal for scientists and other interested parties concerned with the causes and analyses of environmental and sustainability problems and their solutions.

    Environmental problems cannot be solved by one academic discipline. The complex natures of these problems require cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. Since 1991, GAIA has offered a well-balanced and practice-oriented forum for transdisciplinary research. GAIA offers first-hand information on state of the art environmental research and on current solutions to environmental problems. Well-known editors, advisors, and authors work to ensure the high quality of the contributions found in GAIA and a unique transdisciplinary dialogue – in a comprehensible style.

    GAIA is an ISI-journal, listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Science Citation Index and in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    All contributions undergo a double-blind peer review.

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