SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

SPRU hosts successful conference on sustainability transitions

At the end of August, under the direction of Johan Schot as conference chair, SPRU hosted the International Sustainability Transitions (IST 2015) Conference.

With contributions from many members of SPRU, the conference provided a platform to demonstrate the extensive range of sustainability transition research taking place within SPRU. 

Several members of SPRU participated in discussion sessions, alongside traditional research presentations by Saurabh Arora, Adrian Ely, Sam Geall, Ralitsa Hiteva, Phil Johnstone, Florian Kern, Paula Kivimaa, Fiona Marshall, Karoline Rogge, Johan Schot, Adrian Smith, Andy Stirling and PhD student Jake Barnes.

Cian O’Donovan and Phil Johnstone convened a session on Transitions and Democracy in Europe, which has been filmed.

The research presented illustrates the wide range of research conducted within SPRU, and covers diverse sustainability transition issues such as:

  • The nexus as an ecology of practices in urban transitions
    Saurabh Arora, Ralitsa Hiteva, Fiona Marshall
  • From multiple levels to entangled streams: dynamics of structuration and agency in sociotechnical transformations
    Andy Stirling, Saurabh Arora
  • Exploring discontinuity through a comparison of German and UK nuclear power trajectories
    Phil Johnstone, Andy Stirling
  • Conceptualizing the active role of users in shaping transitions
    Johan Schot
  • Genetic modification and agro- ecology: exploring political contestation around agricultural transitions in China 
    Adrian Ely, Sam Geall
  • Strategic experiments in climate governance - Lessons from a case-study review of transition and policy studies
    Paula Kivimaa

The conference also included a poster session, with attendees each having a ballot card to vote for the best poster. SPRU’s Karoline Rogge with co-author Elisabeth Dütschke clearly won the most votes with their poster ‘Why do they believe in it? An investigation into the determinants of policy mix credibility for the case of manufacturers of renewable power generation technologies in Germany’ and they were awarded a prize of £250.

SPRU’s PhD student, Jonas Torrens played a key organisational role and was instrumental in establishing novel opportunities for PhD students and new comers to the field to engage in debates, as well as organising and analysing the data produced by the sessions dedicated to the evaluation and development of a new research agenda for STRN.  The conference is the major annual gathering for the community studying sustainability transitions, and forms part of the activities of the Sustainability Transitions Research Network (STRN).

Conference chair, Johan Schot said: ‘The IST conference has been an exciting opportunity to discuss the world in transition. A lot is going on, and therefore it is appropriate that the field is expanding into new areas and becoming more global, whilst keeping its’ distinct focus on socio-technical system change. This year we had many high quality contributions, PhD students led activities and an interactive and conscious effort to develop a new research agenda. IST has a bright future.’

For an overview of the conference, please see this storify.

Sustainable transitions is a multi-disciplinary field with inputs from economics, science and technology studies, geography, political science, management, sociology and history. Transitions research is a new approach to sustainable development that has been highly influential in shaping policies in various countries.

 For more information, please see the IST 2015 conference website.