Transformation science: seven collective questions for a just and sustainable future.


  • Valerie A. Brown
  • John A. Harris


sustainable development, transformational change, framework, complexity, wicked problems, trandisciplinary research


In times of change, the model of science as solely an objective reductionist approach to inquiry is changing too. In cases of development, whether the changes are primarily social or primarily environmental, scientific inquiry needs to capture the full scope of the interaction between the two. This paper offers a framework for inquiry that draws on the full range of human experience, all of which needs to be considered under conditions of development and transformational change. Personal, biophysical, social, ethical, aesthetic, and sympathetic questions need to be asked of any significant issue, followed by reflective questions on the meaning of the combined answers. The collective answers that come from all the diverse interests in a development programme, from crossing the boundaries between key individuals, the local community, expert advisors, organizations and creative thinkers provide a collective understanding of the needs of a just and sustainable future for the whole development community. Collective action research based on collective learning was the research method employed by the Local Sustainability Project 1992-2013 in communities coping with transformational change. To illustrate transformation science, the approach is applied to sustainable development of the Mer culture from the Murray Islands of the Torres Straits Islands, previously part of Australia.