Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations - Building Transdisciplinary Expertise for Sustainability Challenges

Call for Applications for a Summer School of the Institute of Social-Ecological Research at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften of the Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main. Deadline: May 20th 2018

We are delighted to invite you to ISOE’s summer school 2018 on applied transdisciplinary methods taking place from July 29 to August 3, 2018 at Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften, Bad Homburg and in Frankfurt/Main, Germany.


Throughout the past decades, the world experienced an unprecedented acceleration of change. Human appropriation of the earth reached magnitudes that compete with geological and natural forces, maybe giving rise to a new epoch in the earth’s history – the Anthropocene. The ways in which societies change their natural environments lead to harmful consequences in social, environmental and economic domains on multiple scales. Local level alterations in the specific relationships to nature have aggregated impacts on regional scales and culminate in surpassed planetary boundaries. Longterm sustainability is hence threatened if no adequate solutions for social-ecological transformations are developed and applied in the near future.

Transdisciplinarity (TD) is a scientific response to these great challenges that are hybrid in nature as societal actions and ecological responses are closely linked. The processes involved build complex systems of causal relationships, feedbacks and crossscale interlinkages as well as of inherent uncertainties and ambiguity regarding favourable solutions. These complex lifeworld problems involve numerous societal actors and therefore require new approaches and forms of knowledge production.

The TD research approach crosses disciplinary boundaries and closes the gap between science and society. Research is organized as a joint learning process involving both natural and social scientists as well as equally relevant partners from society, politics and the economy with the aim to produce socially robust knowledge.


The summer school “Brilliant Minds for Social-Ecological Transformations” will address the challenges of working in a transdisciplinary way within the context of a disciplinary PhD-program. In order to be able to address these challenges, you will be offered the opportunity to gain insights into the theoretical foundations of transdisciplinary research principles, methods and design elements and get practical experience via hands-on training. Special attention will be given to knowledge integration as this is the major cognitive challenge in transdisciplinary research. Additionally, new TD approaches like Real-World Laboratories or Sustainable Living Labs will be introduced. Exchanging experiences between you, as young scientists, and leading international senior researchers will be the main focus in lectures, workshops and open spaces.

Your benefit

You will receive a profound overview and practical training by international scientists on state-of-the-art transdisciplinary methods that are relevant at each stage of the TD research process. Furthermore, you will enhance your skills in designing, conducting and evaluating TD research projects. You will have the opportunity to reflect your own experiences in inter- and transdisciplinary projects against the other participants’ and senior scientists’ backgrounds. In the guided excursion to the river Nidda you are encouraged to exchange your perspectives on transdisciplinarity with experienced practitioners of the NiddaMan research project.

Who should apply?

  • You are a graduate master student, PhD candidate or early Post-Doc in the field of sustainability sciences?
  • You are interested in transdisciplinarity?
  • You have first experiences in inter- or transdisciplinary research?
  • You are keen on enhancing your transdisciplinary method skills by actively engaging in discussions and by learning within a reflexive process?

If so, apply and join us for Brilliant Minds 2018 Summer School!

How to apply?

Please submit your Curriculum Vitae along with a 500-word letter of motivation and a 300-word abstract for a posterpresentation. The contributions should focus on your recent research work within the field of sustainability and should have linkages to inter- and transdisciplinarity.

The deadline for applications is May 20th 2018.

Please send your applications (combined in one PDF document) to brilliantminds(at)isoe(dot)de.

More information

All applicants will be notified about their participation before June 1, 2018. The working language of the summer school is English. A participation fee of 300 EUR will be charged. Applicants for whom the fee could hinder participation (for example because they receive a scholarship), please write an email to brilliantminds(at)isoe(dot)de.

Travel expenses, accommodation and catering will be covered by the funding institution, the Volkswagen Foundation.


ISOE - Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Hamburger Allee 45, 60486 Frankfurt/Main, Germany, Email: brilliantminds(at)isoe(dot)de, Phone: +49 69 7076919 0.

Organizational Team PD Dr. Diana Hummel, Heide Kerber, Lukas Drees & Robert Luetkemeier

Programme and How to apply: (PDF).

Further Information: (Link).