CID Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Working Paper No. 24

Sustainability Science and the University: Towards Interdisciplinarity

Marcel Bursztyn

A publication of CID's Sustainability Science Program

February, 2008


Interdisciplinarity plays a major role in the debate about the crisis and the future of the University. If the 20th century can be identified as an era of specialization in Academia, there is a tendency now to add interdisciplinary spaces to the traditional disciplinary organization of research and training. Non-academic research institutions are showing more flexibility than universities to respond to problem-oriented demands. This article analyzes the present situation in which a rigid disciplinary academic framework prevails and discusses its limitations in facing complex demands, such as sustainable development. Examples from the Brazilian graduate programs in Environmental Sciences are presented to describe some institutional pathologies that usually affect the attempts to achieve interdisciplinarity. Among the main conclusions are the need to more interaction between universities and non-academic research institutions, and to integrate rather than oppose disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity.

Keywords: sustainability, interdisciplinarity, university, science metrics, environment

JEL codes: Q00, Q01, O13, O32, 033

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