Profile of the Ecological Research Network

Ecornet supports stakeholders of sustainable development

The environment, the economy, politics and society are changing. Issues like climate change, scarce resources and biodiversity loss require a radical transformation of lifestyles and business practices. Around the world, many committed stakeholders are already shaping this transformation: For example, cities are acting like pioneers in local climate protection, companies are developing resource-saving products, parliaments are adopting environmental laws, initiatives are raising awareness and citizens are getting involved in a variety of ways with new ideas, e.g. as part of the sharing economy.

The goal of the Ecological Research Network (Ecornet) is to help shape this societal change towards sustainability and to scientifically substantiate it. Ecornet has established itself as a network of eight independent, non-profit institutes for environmental and sustainability research in Germany in order to support the research landscape and policy makers with its combined expertise. Its member institutes employ a total of around 800 staff and their research projects are financed mainly through third-party funding. Thus there is a permanent incentive for high innovation, flexibility and connectivity to the addressees of research.

Ecornet research: problem-oriented, integrative and communicative

From the outset, the Ecornet institutes have specialized in working practically and across the boundaries of scientific disciplines. Within this context, high priority is given to staying closely connected to practical problems and the knowledge gained from them. Ongoing dialogue with society’s knowledge- and stakeholders ensures that the research results are socially relevant. Factual and clear communication as a basis for broad discourse also plays a key role in defining the Ecornet institutes.

The Ecornet institutes develop tangible solutions for an ecologically sustainable and socially just present and future. The energy revolution, life cycle assessment, climate change, sustainable management, European environmental policy – from the very beginning the Ecornet institutes helped shape these and other fields of activity which are now taken for granted. Research in the Ecornet institutes is organized into topical fields such as consumption, climate, energy, biodiversity, mobility or resources, including water and land use.

Ecornet is critical and expands the understanding of science

The Ecornet institutes are part of a critical heritage. They were founded between 1977 and 1995 as independent institutes outside of the established scientific system which had no viable concepts for the then pressing problems such as the oil crisis, chemical spills, dying forests or the ozone hole. In the course of the globally developing sustainability debate (Rio, Kyoto, Johannesburg) and implementation on a national level, the Ecornet institutes have outgrown this former niche and, with their critical sustainability research at the interface between science and society, are coming into their own within the German science landscape. They incorporate non-scientific actors in the research process, i.e. work in a transdisciplinary manner. The Ecornet institutes help to disseminate and methodically develop this research approach through a variety of collaborations and networks.