Social Ecology: ISOE’s tenth anniversary of academic teaching

This semester, ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research is entering its tenth year of academic training in the field of transdisciplinary sustainability research. Since 2008/2009 and as a unique cooperation in Germany, ISOE as an independent research institute has been offering “Social Ecology” as a teaching area in the Environmental Sciences (Master of Science) together with the Department of Social Sciences of the Goethe University in Frankfurt.

With its commitment to the education of young scientists in research-based teaching, ISOE aims on the one hand to further establish social ecology as a field of science. Social ecology sees itself as the science of societal relations with nature. Its central question is how the crisis-ridden relationships between society and nature can be recognized, understood and shaped.

On the other hand, participating in scientific teaching serves to convey the theoretical concepts, methods and empirical fields of application as part of social-ecological research. That way, the next generation of researchers will be enabled to develop application-oriented scientific solutions to complex societal problems, such as those arising from human intervention in nature. For this purpose, ISOE also supervises qualification theses, in particular master’s theses, but also dissertations.

Training of young scientists in the Master’s program ‘Environmental Sciences’

The main subject “Social Ecology” at Goethe University is also one of the special features of the interdisciplinary and application-oriented Master's program in Environmental Sciences, for which up to 180 students per year now apply for 35 places: In addition to various scientific aspects, the Social Ecology specialization also deals with social science topics.
The program thus goes far beyond the mere understanding of human influence on ecosystems, as it deals specifically with questions of how science can contribute to societal strategies in order to counteract harmful environmental changes. Topics such as consumer behavior, dealing with systemic risks or sustainable resource management are dealt with explicitly and appropriate inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches are taught.

The transdisciplinary approach of Frankfurt Social Ecology

ISOE with its research program also follows the maxim that application-oriented research is inconceivable without basic research. Frankfurt Social Ecology makes it possible to specifically ask how societies regulate their relations with nature and what might be the possible reasons if these do not develop in a sustainable way. This, in turn, helps to decide what kind of knowledge we need and how we have to integrate it in order to answer these questions.

Frankfurt Social Ecology was created in the 1980s from the critical perspective of environmental research, which was strongly technology-oriented and science-based. With its transdisciplinary approach, Frankfurt Social Ecology sees itself as problem-oriented research that not only aims to generate better knowledge about social-ecological problems, but also to identify starting points for shaping solutions. This means incorporating different types of knowledge – scientific knowledge, but also the practical knowledge of societal actors – and taking the role and responsibility of science itself into consideration.

Further scientific seminars at Leuphana University and TU Darmstadt
In addition to the master’s degree in environmental sciences at Goethe University, ISOE is also regularly involved in teaching at two other universities. At the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, the concepts and methods of transdisciplinary research developed at ISOE are applied as part of the Bachelor's and Master's programs in “research-based learning” within student projects that are dealing with sustainability research. In addition, the interdisciplinary development of transdisciplinary curricula as well as the conception and implementation of research and doctoral projects at the Faculty of Sustainability are supported. Furthermore, seminars on sustainable water supply are offered at the Technical University of Darmstadt.

Contact person:
PD Dr. Diana Hummel
ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research
Hamburger Allee 45
60486 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Phone +49 69 7076919-33

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