GEDB research

Transdisciplinary research

All research within GEDB is premised on a worldview that the biosphere forms the critical life‐support system underpinning human and social development. As humans we are an integral part of this biosphere and are dependent for our well-being on the ecosystem services it provides. At the same time we are fundamentally transforming its structure and functioning at unprecedented speed and scale. The mission of GEDB is to do first rate scientific research and provide a platform for integrative trans-disciplinary sustainability science with a focus on various aspects of the economy. To achieve this we have adopted several strategies outlined below.

We have put together a trans-disciplinary team with varying and complementary competencies (see our staff page here). But, inter- and trans-disciplinary work and innovation is complex and challenging and it requires collaborators to manage and harness disciplinary differences in terms of values, assumption, methodologies, and the complex team dynamics that result from them. To promote high-quality trans-disciplinary science we encourage various formats designed around small, informal, and intensely focused working group collaborations as these have been shown to be the most successful in catalyzing inter- and trans-disciplinary creativity.

It is within such small, purposeful, face-to-face groups that the innovative process generally occurs. Small groups enable rapid and efficient communication and decision making, while also serving as intellectual filters for decisions about methods, research questions and theoretical approaches within nascent research areas. But while small-groups are useful for stimulating creative processes, there is a need to provide a broad framework to set the boundaries and defined the problem space to which our research should speak.

Research themes

To achieve all this, we have created an organisational structure that is flexible - to provide for the emergent and innovative nature of this scientific field, and at the same time strong - to provide the scientific rigor essential to ensure high-impact scientific work of relevance for society. Three research areas lead research in the programme:

(Macro)economy and the Biosphere:This theme focuses on promoting cutting-edge work on macro-economic models which integrate the biosphere through various "planetary boundaries” and natural resources. It also includes analysis of consumer behavior, supply chain structures and other aspects of how trade interacts with and affects a broad set of natural resources and the environment.

Marine resource trade and its effects on social-ecological systems: This theme uses the marine realm as a case resource system to examine how existing and emergent markets, market structures, actors and commodity chain dynamics affect the functioning of marine social-ecological systems (SES) at multiple scales. It also analyses cross-scale interactions (local-regional-global) that drive dynamics and determine outcomes at these different scales.

Interactions between financial markets and the biosphere: This relatively new theme explores the interconnectivity of global financial processes and the planetary system.

Cross cutting themes

Moreover, during our first two years of operation two additional, cross-cutting themes have emerged; ‘Cross-scale dynamics’ and ‘Systems transformation’.

Cross-scale dynamics has emerged as a red thread throughout much of the ongoing work, both as an explicit research focus with targeted analysis to uncover cross-scale dynamics such as in the ‘Marine trade’ and ‘Financial markets’ themes, but also more implicitly through, for example, the macroeconomic models employed in the ‘Macro-economy’ theme which derive aggregate scale behavior of the system from the incentives and constraints facing individual decision makers. This cross-cutting theme is primarily concerned with the two-way influence between the economy and the biosphere, mediated by the social-ecological systems within it.

Systems transformation has developed through the recurring focus of several research efforts on factors that bolster or impede trans-formative change in a system (e.g. work on transformations in the seafood industry, and work on financial instruments and environmental change outlined in section 4) or mapping of system structures such as key actors and their role in transforming existing structures and processes (e.g. work on keystone actors in fisheries production and trade, and mapping of financial actors and their links to global environmental change). This cross-cutting theme focuses on how we can move from largely uncoordinated use of the biosphere and its resources, to a more structured biosphere stewardship, and what such a stewardship might look like.

To find out more about a research theme, click on the names above or select one from the menu. You can also browse through the many GEDB scientific publications in our online database

Research Database