HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Harvey Brooks Research Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development


Sustainability science draws from a great variety of perspectives including tacit (traditional and practical) knowledge, ecology and economics, engineering and medicine, political science and law, and a multitude of others. These multiple perspectives are generally a source of strength, bringing potentially complementary bodies of theory, data, and methods to bear on the challenges of sustainable development. But they also have meant that the field remains somewhat fractured into distinct schools of thought, research programs, and other “island empires,” each characterized by its own idiosyncratic origins, terminologies, publication venues, case studies, and conceptual frameworks. While many individual disciplines have contributed something to sustainability research, interdisciplinary research programs have been the most significant shapers of the part of that research that is our target in this Research Guide. We list the programs that we judge to have been most influential in Table 1. The good news is that these research programs are increasingly melding, sharing scholars and ideas and generating exciting hybrid research efforts. The bad news is that the integration remains incomplete, with the result that sustainability science today remains substantially less than the sum of its impressive parts. Integrating research across the island empires of the field would almost certainly help to realize its potential for informing agitation in support of sustainable development.


Clark, William C., and Alicia G. Harley. "An Integrative Framework for Sustainability Science." September 2020.