Science inTransition

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) calls for a "new contract between science and society". It is criticized that science does not live up to its responsibility in an age of growing societal challenges. What is needed are new forms of democratizing science, a need that is being met with resistance from within the established science system.

The fact that the relation between science and society has become the subject of a broad debate is due to the fundamental transitions taking place in modern societies today: Technological development in a variety of fields – ranging from life and material sciences to the information and communication technologies sector – and their social and ecological side effects are directly linked to the development of the science system as a whole. In addition, science increasingly plays a role in more and more fields of application, which leads to a much more intense interaction between science and practice in many areas of life.

Science system in flux
Putting theoretical knowledge into practice: Students work in a team on an engineering project and put their knowledge into practice. The interplay between science and society involves not only adapted research topics but also new teaching concepts, programmes and institutional changes.

Transformative Science is a concept that has emerged from this debate and can be characterised as the kind of science that is not limited to observing and describing processes of transformation, but rather becomes an agent in these processes, simultaneously learning about and proactively catalysing transformations to sustainability.

The concept of "transformative science" goes beyond the idea of "transformative research" because it focuses on the science system and its institutional set-up. A new contract between science and society requires not only new research agendas and approaches, but also new concepts and programmes in education, and institutional change for better embedding science in its societal contexts.