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What we do

Research, Teaching and Academic Citizenship


GCI research is at the cutting edge, and provides the competent credibility and credible competence for all our activities. This is what sets us apart from other boundary organisations and it allows us to act as a knowledge broker for primary scientific knowledge, at the beginning of the knowledge value chain, as opposed to relying on syntheses and summaries from other knowledge brokers.

We play a leading role among our academic peers in showing the need for inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches to respond to the sustainability challenge.

Interconnected themes, often referred to as ‘wicked challenges’, require modes of engagement, science, teaching and citizenship that move beyond Mode 1 knowledge production, that follows a more, traditional disciplinary approach (Gibbons et al., 1994 and Nowotny et al, 2001 ) to include a Mode 2 science approach. A Mode 2 approach takes more of a ‘problem solving approach’ and is focused on the context in which ‘wicked challenges‘ are embedded including the social, economic and physical landscape. Allied to such notions is transdisciplinarity, more commonly referred to as co-production (e.g. Klein, 2013 ), a cornerstone of the GCI. The emphasis is thus not only on excellent Mode 1 science, but also in ‘looking beyond’ the university to engaging with society to find solutions to pressing problems.


Our teaching is responsive to the needs of students and to actors outside the university. We use university courses as the basis for short courses and other formal training opportunities for other actors in the sustainability domain. This cross-pollination links different knowledge domains to improve learning through shared understanding.

GCI teaching aspires to embed sustainability attributes in our students at all levels: Holistic systems thinking, Sustainability Knowledge, Awareness and integration and Acting for positive change (Marcus et al 2016).

At GCI we teach both in fundamental Mode 1 science themes as well as in Mode 2 science. Underlying these approaches are teaching and capacity building (both within the University and beyond) that addresses global environmental change theme e.g. biodiversity, ecosystem services, climate change adaptation, land use change and urban city development.

Academic Citizenship

GCI academic citizenship impacts four spheres – within higher education, government, industry and civil society.

Within higher education, our research excellence and novel teaching approaches generates interest and discourse on the topic of sustainability.

GCI members serve on advisory boards, science councils, steering committees and civil society organisations, at national and international level. GCI alumni are employed in key decision-making positions. Collectively, GCI provides effective policy and decision support through own knowledge and expertise, but also through the secondary effect of GCI alumni in the workplace.

Flowing from the cornerstones of transdisciplinarity and excellent science, is the drive to engage with society in both Mode 1 and Mode 2 ways. The science and research we produce is not only to grow the academic programme but is also designed to act in an advisory capacity and engage with society to better inform the science research and teaching we do. Hence several of the GCI members are engaged directly in research advisory capacities, both nationally and internationally. At the same time, the science we are engaged in (to address complex challenges), require that the tenant of Mode 2 knowledge production, that is science with society, is held central.