Sustainability in research institutions

The three major non-university research institutions in Germany are committed to taking a pioneering role in sustainability management. Their recently presented guidelines also bear the signature of ITAS.
The framework for reflection includes criteria for socially responsible research. (Source: BMBF)
Handing over of the document: Federal Minister Johanna Wanka with (from left) Reimund Neugebauer (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft), Otmar D. Wiestler (Helmholtz Association) and Matthias Kleiner (Leibniz Association). (Picture: Thomas Imo / photothek)

Research institutions are contributing to sustainable development not only by their scientific results. As key players in the innovation system, large employers and mainly publicly funded organizations, they have to face the challenge of how to fulfil their responsibility towards the environment, society and employees also in their own research and operational processes.

Against this backdrop, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association and the Leibniz Association have recently submitted guidelines on sustainability management in non-university research institutions ("Nachhaltigkeitsmanagement in außeruniversitären Forschungsorganisationen") within the framework of the project "LeNa – Leitfaden Nachhaltigkeitsmanagement" (LeNa – Guide to Sustainability Management). In early October, the presidents of the three research institutions, Reimund Neugebauer, Otmar D. Wiestler and Matthias Kleiner, passed the document to Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka.

Framework for reflection on socially responsible research

Jürgen Kopfmüller and Markus Winkelmann from ITAS were also centrally involved in the first comprehensive elaboration and specification of the theme. In their subproject, they developed criteria for socially responsible research. On the other hand, they looked for ways to incorporate these criteria in everyday research – from the individual level of the researchers up to the level of political and institutional framework.

The main results of this subproject were documented in "Reflexionsrahmen für Forschen in gesellschaftlicher Verantwortung" (Framework for Reflection on Socially Responsible Research). In addition to a thematic integration, it contains the eight criteria developed: ethics, integrative approach, interdisciplinarity, user orientation, reflection on impacts, transdisciplinarity, transparency, and dealing with complexity and uncertainty. Moreover, the reflection framework includes justifications and methodological explanations of the criteria, instructions for their application, and options for implementation and institutionalization at different levels of the science system. (07.11.2016)

Further information:

  • Homepage of the joint project on sustainability management in non-university research institutions (LeNa) (only in German)
  • Reflexionsrahmen für Forschen in gesellschaftlicher Verantwortung (PDF German)
  • BMBF press release on the handing over of the document (only in German)