Utilizing international networks for accelerating research and learning in transformational sustainability science

Lauren Withycombe Keeler*, Arnim Wiek, Daniel J. Lang, Makoto Yokohari, John van Breda, Lennart Olsson, Barry Ness, Jordi Morato, Jordi Segalas, Pim Martens, Luis A. Bojorquez-Tapia, James Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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A promising approach for addressing sustainability problems is to recognize the unique conditions of a particular place, such as problem features and solution capabilities, and adopt and adapt solutions developed at other places around the world. Therefore, research and teaching in international networks becomes critical, as it allows for accelerating learning by sharing problem understandings, successful solutions, and important contextual considerations. This article identifies eight distinct types of research and teaching collaborations in international networks that can support such accelerated learning. The four research types are, with increasing intensity of collaboration: (1) solution adoption; (2) solution consultation; (3) joint research on different problems; and (4) joint research on similar problems. The four teaching types are, with increasing intensity of collaboration: (1) adopted course; (2) course with visiting faculty; (3) joint course with traveling faculty; and (4) joint course with traveling students. The typology is illustrated by extending existing research and teaching projects on urban sustainability in the International Network of Programs in Sustainability, with partner universities from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa. The article concludes with challenges and strategies for extending individual projects into collaborations in international networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-762
Number of pages14
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Sustainability science
  • Sustainability education
  • International networks
  • University collaborations

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