TransformativeScienceResearch Prize

In 2017, the "Transformative Science" research prize has been offered for the first time by the Wuppertal Institute and the Zempelin Foundation in the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany (Stifterverband). In 2020, the prize will be awarded for the fourth time.

The "Transformative Science" research prize focuses on all forms of research that spark and promote social impetus and thus involve civil society. Transdisciplinary research design plays a significant role in this. The research prize is endowed with 25,000 euros. The money is awarded to prize winners for their project ideas in the field of transformative science. The Wuppertal Institute awards the research prize, which is funded by the Zempelin Foundation in the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany (Stifterverband). The Wuppertal Institute sees it as recognition of its achievements in this field that the Donors' Association commissioned the Institute to coordinate the award of the Zempelin Foundation-sponsored prize for "Transformative Science".

Announcement 2020

The research prize focused on individuals and research teams whose scientific work or individual projects have influenced processes of social change and whose outstanding transformative research can be expected to continue in the future. Nominations can be submitted either as a self-application or by suggestion.

Selection criteria and application documents

The jury particularly evaluates the quality and degree of innovation of the transformative research approach and the social relevance of the topic. Furthermore, the transformative effects are decisive for the evaluation. In addition to a letter of motivation, the application should include a brief description of the transformative research conducted to date and the transformative impulses which were triggered by that. Furthermore, a tabular CV with a maximum of five publications and project references is expected. The application documents should be submitted in German and in electronic form as a PDF file by 11 May 2020. Annika Rehm accepts applications by E-mail at

About the 2019 winner

Professor Melanie Jaeger-Erben convinced the jury with her impressive inter- and transdisciplinary profile, her academic track record to date and her ability to apply innovative transdisciplinary methods to the latest sustainability research topics. She has been named the winner of last year's 25,000-euro Transformative Science research prize.
Pleased to have had her work recognised in this way, Melanie Jaeger-Erben commented, "I will probably use the prize money to intensify our work on an effective public platform aimed at promoting the idea of a transformative and inclusive circular society."

Melanie Jaeger-Erben
In 2019, Prof. Dr. Melanie Jaeger-Erben has won the Transformative Science research prize. Source: Fraunhofer IZM

Melanie Jaeger-Erben has been Head of Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research in Electronics at TU Berlin since June 2019. Her work focuses on consumption and social science technology research as well as social innovation and change. She is particularly involved in devising strategies for promoting sustainable production and consumption systems. She has led the junior research group on Obsolescence as a Challenge for Sustainability at TU Berlin since July 2016. The group's work is focused on examining the phenomenon of obsolescence from social, economic, engineering and legal perspectives. As the throwaway culture associated with excessively short lifespans for electronic devices causes serious social and ecological harm, the junior research group of TU Berlin and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (IZM) is working under Prof. Dr. Melanie Jaeger-Erben's lead to develop strategies designed to promote more sustainable production and consumption.

The scientist studied psychology and sociology at the Universities of Göttingen and Uppsala (Sweden) and completed postgraduate studies in qualitative social and educational research methods at the University of Magdeburg. She obtained her doctorate in sociology at TU Berlin in 2010. As an expert advisor to Ellen Matthies, Melanie Jaeger-Erben was part of the scientific staff for the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) from 2013 to 2016.

Obsolescence junior research group
The Obsolescence junior research group (from left): Prof. Dr. Melanie Jaeger-Erben, Dr. Janis Winzer (co-head), Tamina Hipp, Eduard Wagner, Marina Proske, Christian Dickenhorst, Florian Hofmann and Dr. Max Marwede (not shown: Erik Poppe). Source: Fraunhofer IZM
The seven jury members
  • Prof. Dr. Claudia Hornberg
    University of Bielefeld, Faculty of Health Sciences; Environment and Health
  • Prof. Dr. Heike Köckler
    Hochschule für Gesundheit (University of Applied Sciences), Dean of the Department of Community Health, Professor for Social Environment and Health
  • Prof. Dr. Jasmin Mantilla-Contreras
    University of Hildesheim, Institute of Biology and Chemistry; Ecology and Environmental Education
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Marquardt
    Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich Research Centre
  • Dr. Volker Meyer-Guckel
    Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany (Stifterverband), Deputy Secretary-General and member of the executive board, Head of Programmes and Funding
  • Prof. Dr. Roland Scholz Danube
    University Krems, Chief Senior Scientist and visiting professor in the Department for Knowledge and Communication Management
  • Dr. Steffi Ober
    Initiator and Head of the Civil Society Platform "Forschungswende"
About the research prize

The "Transformative Science" research prize is aimed at all forms of research that inspire society, promote social change and thereby engage the civil society. Transdisciplinary research design plays an important role in this process. The award-winners receive 25,000 euros in prize money. This money goes to support the winners in implementing their project ideas in the field of transformative science. In addition to the prize money, the winning team receives a sculpture that has been forged from the steel rails of the Wuppertal suspension railway – the Schwebebahn – built in 1898.