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Schneider, Flurina; Kläy, Andreas; Zimmermann, Anne; Buser, Tobias Johannes; Ingalls, Micah; Messerli, Peter (2019). How can science support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? Four tasks to tackle the normative dimension of sustainability. Sustainability science, 14(6), pp. 1593-1604. Springer 10.1007/s11625-019-00675-y



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The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stresses the fundamental role science should play in implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals endorsed by the global community. But how can and should researchers respond to this societal demand on science? We argue that answering this question requires systematic engagement with the fundamental normative dimensions of the 2030 Agenda and those of the scientifc community—and with the implications these dimensions have for research and practice. We suggest that the production of knowledge relevant to sustainable development entails
analytic engagement with norms and values through four tasks. First, to unravel and critically refect on the ethical values involved in sustainability, values should increasingly become an empirical and theoretical object of sustainability research. Second, to ensure that research on social–ecological systems is related to sustainability values, researchers should refect on and spell out what sustainability values guide their research, taking into account possible interdependencies, synergies, and trade-ofs. Third, to fnd common ground on what sustainability means for specifc situations, scientists should engage in deliberative learning processes with societal actors, with a view to jointly refecting on existing development visions and creating new, contextualized ones. Fourth, this implies that researchers and scientifc disciplines must clarify their own ethical and epistemic values, as this defnes accountability and shapes identifcation of problems, research questions, and results. We believe that ignoring these tasks, whether one is in favor or critical of the 2030 Agenda, will undermine the credibility and relevance of scientifc contributions for sustainable development.

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