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Open Access Assessing Ten Years of Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research, Education, and Outreach: The Competence Center Environment and Sustainability (CCES) of the ETH Domain

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

While there is a growing consensus about the role of academia in tackling the grand challenges of sustainability, the current incentive and reward system does not yet provide the right environment. Inter- and transdisciplinary research centers can bring about the needed cultural change.

Research centers have emerged as organizational structures to meet the manifold expectations raised towards sustainability science, a field characterized by high levels of inter- and transdisciplinarity. In this article, we assess the impact of the Competence Center Environment and Sustainability (CCES) of the ETH Domain. Encompassing more than 800 participants from six research institutions in Switzerland, the research center has been in operation for ten years (2006 to 2016). Focusing on its three areas of activity ‐ research, education, and outreach ‐ we analyze which decisions have influenced the development and legacy of CCES. We formulate five recommendations, which could prove useful for the future design and evaluation of comparable enterprises. Finally, we conclude that the academic incentive and reward system has to open up for inter- and transdisciplinarity. Research centers like CCES can facilitate this cultural change by providing the necessary academic environment and forming a new generation of researchers in key fields.
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Keywords: competence center; environmental science; impact assessment; inter- and transdisciplinary research; program evaluation; project evaluation; research center; sustainability science

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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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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