Systems and assessment approaches for knowledge integration in spatial sustainability transformations’ contexts


Sustainability science usually deals with issues of considerable multiplicity. It therefore incorporates knowledge from different disciplines and, in its transdisciplinary branch, additionally expert knowledge from practitioners in different sectors as well as everyday knowledge and experience from a wide range of stakeholders. Reflection of the processes and means of identifying, systematising and interrelating bodies and types of knowledge is evolving as an emergent field of research. There are a variety of concepts and approaches from multidisciplinary fields such as ecology, business economics, and informatics. At the same time, sustainability science itself is generating a broad, partly fragmented and rapidly evolving spectrum of interdisciplinary frameworks and methodologies as well as transdisciplinary approaches to collaborative knowledge production. Research on spatial sustainability transformations can benefit from this development. However, it needs to take a particular view that explicitly includes the dimensions of spatiality and the dynamics of transformations. Approaches commonly used in the research on spatial sustainability transformations can serve as subjects to explore the potential for a more deliberate integration of knowledge.

Research aims

The research project SAKI aims to identify, analyse and adopt knowledge integration concepts and methods for two main groups of approaches that play an important role in spatial sustainability transformations research: systems and assessment approaches. Here, systems approaches are understood as a means developed in the natural, engineering and social sciences to represent sets of elements with their interrelationships. Assessment approaches can be understood as procedures that combine analysis and evaluation in a structured manner to support decision making. While systems approaches seem to be particularly meaningful for generating system knowledge, assessment approaches facilitate the combination of system and target knowledge. In principle, both can include knowledge from the natural, engineering and social sciences and humanities. And both are used to address ecological, economic and social subjects together, with their spatial pattern and temporal dynamics. They are typically applied to support the management and governance of selected configurations of spatial sustainability transformations.

The project seeks to answer the following three research questions:

  • How can knowledge integration be conceptualised for research on spatial sustainability transformations?
  • Which selected systems and assessment approaches are suitable for knowledge integration relevant for spatial sustainability transformations?
  • How can knowledge integration concepts be adopted and combined in an interdisciplinary framework to advance systems and assessment approaches relevant for spatial sustainability transformations?


The research within the SAKI research project includes: (i) reviewing knowledge integration concepts for their potential relevance to spatial sustainability transformations, (ii) reviewing systems and assessment approaches relevant to spatial sustainability transformations, and (iii) selecting and adopting knowledge integration concepts for advanced systems and assessment approaches and combining them in creating a framework relevant to spatial sustainability transformations. The main sources will be the scientific literature and planned events for internal and external reflection.

Expected results

The findings of the SAKI research project provide a systematic overview of major concepts of knowledge integration that are of potential relevance for spatial sustainability transformations research. Furthermore, they highlight systems and assessment approaches that are particular suitable for this field of research. An operational knowledge integration framework systematically advances selected systems and assessment approaches through knowledge integration concepts. It may catalyse scientific discovery and innovation for research on spatial sustainability transformations and even for the wider sustainability science. Despite its primarily interdisciplinary research view, the collected knowledge integration concepts and systems and assessment approaches as well as the framework can serve as references for the study of knowledge integration in transdisciplinary contexts./p>

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.