Call for abstracts

The conference will host ten scientific sessions, convened by session leaders from the Aalto University and University of Helsinki. The sessions will cover a range of approaches within the sustainability science and the conference theme, including energy, food systems, and methodological aspects. In case you have questions in regard to the content of the sessions, please contact the conveners directly.

Submission guidelines

To present your work in the event please submit an abstract (max 500 words without references) on your research on any of the topics listed below. The abstract should include the key research questions, theoretical underpinnings, empirical foundations (if applicable) and expected contributions to the discussions of the selected theme.

The online submission system for the scientific parallel sessions of the Sustainability science days has closed.

Notification of acceptance will be made by 15 March 2019.

The entrance to the event is free.

Session introductions

Sustainability transformations in the large-scale tree plantation sector

We engage a broad group of stakeholders including industry, NGOs, policy-makers and academics from different disciplines to discuss and co-create innovative opportunities and practices to facilitate sustainability transformations in the large-scale tree plantation sector. The issue of sustainability is approached in a broad sense, and will emphasise interactions between social, environmental and economic sustainability in complex environments.  We will discuss driving forces of sustainability including rationalities (e.g. scientific facts), hidden forces (e.g. histories, values, believes and emotions) and ways of interaction.  One major theme will be on European and Finnish responsibilities for sustainable production and consumption of products coming from large-scale tree plantations in the Global South, where sustainability is particularly challenging and controversial, taking into consideration the entire supply chain from primary production to end products.  The facilitated session includes mini-workshops, presentations, a poster session and dialogues by researchers, private-sector, NGOs, and other stakeholders. We invite submission of abstracts for short oral presentations (ca 10 min) and posters on topics related to the session

Key references

Malkamäki, A., D’Amato, D., Hogarth, N.J., Kanninen, M., Pirard, R., Toppinen, A., & Zhou, W. 2018. A systematic review of the socio-economic impacts of large-scale tree plantations, worldwide. Global Environmental Change 53 (November 2018):90-103.

Siitonen, P. & Hämäläinen R.P. 2004. From conflict management to systems intelligence in forest conservation decision making. Systems Analysis Laboratory Research Reports A88:199-214.

Conveners:  Nicholas Hogarth (Univ. of Helsinki), Paula Siitonen (Aalto University)

Innovations in Sustainable Food Systems

The environmental effects of the food system are related to climate change, changes in land use, depletion of freshwater resources, and pollution of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems through excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inputs. Improving the sustainability of the food system requires dietary changes towards healthier, more plant-based diets, improvements in technologies and management, and reductions in food loss and waste. This session aims to highlight novel innovations that improve the sustainability of food systems. The session will consist of presentations that address different parts of the supply chain of food, covering primary production, processing, packaging, retail, distribution, food service, consumption and waste management. Papers that consider environmental, social and economic sustainability jointly are preferred, but papers focusing only on one aspect of sustainability and/or one part of the food system are also welcomed. The innovations can be e.g. novel sustainable products, technologies, business models, new political instruments or nudges that improve the sustainability of food systems through influencing the choices made by the food chain actors (e.g. producers, retailers, food service providers or consumers).

Conveners: Hanna Tuomisto (Univ. of Helsinki), Kirsi Mikkonen (Univ. of Helsinki), Leena Lankoski (Aalto University)

Transitions towards a low-carbon society – future considerations

Research has a facilitative role as contributor to new knowledge, which helps to design policies, to remove sustainability barriers and to accelerate the progress of successful solutions. Transition has been traditionally studied from the historical perspective e.g. how it has advanced over time. Nevertheless, research also looks at potential future pathways, directions, visions or trajectories of change.

This session tackles future oriented considerations on transition towards low-carbon production and consumption. We invite contributions which examine transitions from a multiplicity of perspectives, sectors and levels, including but not limited to the systems view, policy perspective, governance, actor analysis, buildings, energy or mobility sectors, experimentation etc. We welcome both conceptual discussions as well as empirical analysis on transitions.

Due to the pressing need of taking actions to counteract the negative effects of climate change, we welcome presentations that focus on discussing established as well as novel methodologies in how to empirically create future pathways of low-carbon transitions. By discussing a variety of ways and perspectives on studying transitions in the making, we hope to cross-fertilize and advance the transdisciplinary sustainability research towards considering future perspectives, and support respective policy making while doing so.

Conveners: Armi Temmes (Aalto University), Kaisa Matschoss (Univ. of Helsinki), Petteri Repo (Univ. of Helsinki)

Evidence based policy or Policy based evidence

In this session we are interested in exploring the role of scientists and evidence in shaping policy and practice of sustainability. We define sustainability very broadly, and our main interests lie in exploring the topic of reliability and accountability of researchers and policy makers towards society’s needs and interests in (environmental) sustainability and the role of power relations within this interface.

Credible and independent evidence, defined as an available body of knowledge and information, is crucial to respond to our current major socio-environmental challenges, with sustainability sciences playing a pivotal role in providing this. Demand for and supply of evidence to inform decision makers and practitioners seems to be very high: calls for improved public policy through evidence-based decision making, establishment of new science-policy interfaces, and commitments to impactful science are voiced every day in diverse policy arenas. At the same time however, reliability of scientific evidence is increasingly contested and challenged by political and societal actors. And while scientists no longer can claim to hold the monopoly over legitimate knowledge production as multiple sources of evidence and expertise gain acceptance and legitimacy (e.g. indigenous peoples knowledge about biodiversity), facts and information are still being produced, selected and interpreted by a variety of society actors, ranging from Universities, to state research institutions, think tanks, interest organizations and other state and civil society actors. Hence, one can argue that in addition to scientists, multiple actors, including industrial lobbyists and environmental organizations, are using evidence to advance their agendas and influence public decision-making. Furthermore, public decision making is also affected by values, beliefs, and by power relations, for example expressed through financial exchanges. One can expect to find such plurality but also inherent power imbalances in particular in fields characterized by multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary research and ambitions for co-creation of knowledge (e.g. sustainability science), as this type of research is likely to encounter and include people with various backgrounds  and beliefs.  This raises important questions about the reliability of evidence: what is evidence and how is the evidence generated, how is it used, by whom? And as importantly, whose questions and findings have found funding and hence can contribute to a body of evidence? In summary, whose voices are heard, and whose evidence counts? 

In this session we would like to explore questions such as whose science – and sustainability - matters, and who determines which questions (and problems) are on the sustainability research and policy agenda? We will discuss and explore the multiple challenges related to science policy interactions in particular within the sustainability sciences together with the participants, and aim to identify experiences and opportunities for addressing these challenges.  

We welcome presentations sharing experiences, insights, research ideas or philosophical musings related to these topics.

Conveners: Maria Ojanen (Univ. of Helsinki), Maria Brockhaus (Univ. of Helsinki), Aalto convener tbc

Degrowth and postgrowth

In sustainability science, it is increasingly acknowledged that infinite growth on a finite planet is unsustainable. That is, due to the lack of evidence in absolute decoupling of economic growth from ecological harm, there is a call for reorienting societies and organizations towards degrowth and postgrowth in the over-consuming and over-producing contexts in order to achieve sustainability. In these alternative futures, instead of building up expectations and furthering ungrounded optimism in progress, the economy of the world would be downsized to the extent that its resource use and waste does not exceed the regenerative and/or assimilative capacities of the planetary ecosystem. The purpose of this session is to examine what kind of ideas, practices, and structures could support this societal transformation of great magnitude. We are hence particularly keen on contributions that explicitly question the predominant growth hegemony, and outline ways to reach degrowth and postgrowth societies. The proposed alternatives can be more or less radical, and they do not have to be portrayed as successful in any absolute sense. We invite both theoretical and empirical contributions from all disciplines and geographical contexts.

Conveners: Pasi Heikkurinen (Univ. of Helsinki), Eeva Houtbeckers (Aalto University)

Understanding, challenging and changing energy practices

Scientific research and public policy in the field of energy consumption has primarily focused on technological and behavioural means to improve carbon efficiency. However, such approaches have been insufficient in the aims to challenge the present social norms and cultural conventions steering daily consumption and leading to an increased need for energy. To enable a shift towards low carbon society, we need to understand the framework within which energy is used: to look beyond individual consumers to the historical, structural, and cultural factors shaping daily consumption and to recognise the networks of practices, actors and situations within which energy use occurs. The challenge for policy is thus to transform not only individual behaviours, but also collective rules, infrastructures and systems of provision defining consumption.

This session welcomes presentations focusing on (but not restricted to) inter- and transdisciplinary methods for changing prevailing energy cultures; adoption and appropriation of novel technologies and practices in different social and geographical contexts; innovative ways to challenge and intervene with energy consumption practices; and approaches to understand the interlinked processes of energy production and consumption - in short, approaches that go beyond traditional behavioural change initiatives in shifting energy practices onto more sustainable pathways.

Key references:

Geels, F. W., McMeekin, A., Mylan, J., & Southerton, D. (2015). A critical appraisal of Sustainable Consumption and Production research: The reformist, revolutionary and reconfiguration positions. Global Environmental Change, 34, 1–12.

Jalas, M., Hyysalo, S., Heiskanen, E., et al. (2017). Everyday experimentation in energy transition: A practice-theoretical view. Journal of Cleaner Production, 169, 77–84.

Shove, E., & Walker, G. (2014). What Is Energy For? Social Practice and Energy Demand. Theory, Culture & Society, 31(5), 41–58.

Conveners: Senja Laakso (Univ. of Helsinki), Mikko Jalas (Aalto University), Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti (Univ. of Helsinki)

Values, Social Sustainability and Social Responsibility: Core at Sustainable Food Systems of The Future?

How can we re-think the transactional approach to relationships in transitioning food systems, by engaging in a transdisciplinary debate about human values connecting society with organizations and their choices? This session seeks answers from papers with an organizational focus that address values ([1], [2]) within and beyond (i.) the viable systems perspective to organizations, social capital, governance and collaborative networks ([3]; [4]; [5]; [6]), (ii.) the current ethics and value contestation debate ([7]; [8]; [9]; [10]), and (iii.) the moral responsibility discussion ([11]; [12]; [13]; [14]), to contribute to the debate about future collaborative food networks, where pragmatist and normative perspectives can fruitfully meet.

Key references:

[1] Schwartz, S. H., & Bilsky, W. (1990). Toward a theory of the universal content and structure of values: Extensions and cross-cultural replications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(5), 878.

[2] Rokeach, M. (2008). Understanding Human Values. Simon and Schuster.

[3] Lodsgård, L., & Aagaard, A. (2017). Creating value through CSR across company functions and NGO collaborations. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 33(3), 162-174.

[4] Lin, N. (2017). Building a network theory of social capital. In: Social Capital (pp. 3-28). Routledge.

[5] Lovan, W. R., Murray, M., & Shaffer, R. (2017). Participatory governance: planning, conflict mediation and public decision-making in civil society. Routledge.

[6] Becker, J., Brackbill, D., & Centola, D. (2017). Network dynamics of social influence in the wisdom of crowds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201615978.

[7] Kirwan, J., Maye, D., & Brunori, G. (2017). Reflexive governance, incorporating ethics and changing understandings of food chain performance. Sociologia Ruralis, 57(3), 357-377.

[8] Barnhill, A., Doggett, T., & Budolfson, M. (Eds.). (2018). The Oxford handbook of food ethics. Oxford University Press.

[9] Marsden, T. K., & Arce, A. (2017). The social construction of international food: a new research agenda. In The Rural (pp. 87-106). Routledge.

[10] Grebitus, C., Steiner, B. and M. Veeman (2015). The roles of human values and generalized trust on stated preferences when food is labeled with environmental footprints, Food Policy, 52: 84-91.

[11] Valley, W., Wittman, H., Jordan, N., Ahmed, S., & Galt, R. (2017). An emerging signature pedagogy for sustainable food systems education. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 1-14.

[12] Carroll, A. B. (1991). The pyramid of corporate social responsibility: Toward the moral management of organizational stakeholders. Business Horizons, 34(4), 39-48.

[13] Joyner, B. E., & Payne, D. (2002). Evolution and implementation: A study of values, business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 41(4), 297-311.

[14] Hemingway, C. A., & Maclagan, P. W. (2004). Managers' personal values as drivers of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 50(1), 33-44.

Conveners:  Bodo Steiner (Univ. of Helsinki), Markku Kuula (Aalto University)

Energy Humanities

Burning problems related to energy production and use cannot be solved by sciences only but call for the development of interdisciplinary approaches that draw on humanities and social sciences – energy humanities. While bridging between natural sciences and humanities, energy humanities not only remap the geopolitical and ecological factors of energy policy at various levels but also develop new vocabulary (e.g. petroculture, nuclear phobia, nuclear identity, energy liberation, plutonium economy) and methodological tools (ecocriticism, nuclear criticism, econarratology etc.) to map the energetic history of humanity.

The panel invites presentations which explore how energy and energy-related issues shape values, beliefs and imaginaries in contemporary energy-dependent societies.

Key references:

Szeman, I., & Boyer, D. (Eds.). (2017). Energy Humanities: An Anthology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wilson, S., Carlson, A., & Szeman, I. (Eds.). (2017). Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Conveners: Inna Sukhenko (Univ. of Helsinki), Viktor Pal (Univ. of Helsinki), Meri Jalonen (Aalto University)

Big data methods: what is the contribution to Sustainability Science? 

This session asks how big data and increasing computing power can help us to address sustainability challenges and enable more informed decision-making. We invite contributions from various disciplines to inquire and discuss the validity, meaning, policy relevance and governance consequences of big data methods in sustainability science. Examples can include big data methods for ecological monitoring and modelling, resource optimization, environmental risk assessment, real-time reporting, assessment of environmental quality indicators, text data mining related to sustainability transitions. The session will combine poster presentation of big data methods application in diverse sustainability science settings and critical discussion on the boundaries of application of big data methods, their limitations and policy implications.

Conveners: Daria Gritsenko (Univ. of Helsinki), Dalia D’Amato (Univ. of Helsinki), Polina Rozenshtein (Aalto University)