Young scientists are doing research on sustainable development at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.

The Doctoral School of Sustainable Development (“Doktoratskolleg Nachhaltige Entwicklung” dokNE) was established as the first structured doctoral school at University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) in 2007, in order to support and promote young scientists in sustainability research.  To-date it remains the only doctoral school in Austria, with a specific focus on sustainability. The school provides an organizational framework for cross-disciplinary research with a practical orientation, at the interface of regional development, resource use, policy and society.

Development of dokNE

The first project phase dokNE I (2007-2010) was initiated by BOKU in collaboration  with the research program proVISION of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research, the federal states of Vienna, Lower Austria and Styria as well as the Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. Through this joint initiative of project partners and funders, networks were built and expertise increased. Numerous scientific reports and journal articles as well as popular scientific publications were produced as a result. In October 2011 the second three-year round of dokNE was launched.

DokNE II comprises an interdisciplinary and international team of ten PhD-students from Austria, Germany, Laos, Uganda and Russia, a number of master students as well as 16 supervisors from several departments of BOKU and other international universities.  DokNE II is financed by BOKU, by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research, the states of Vienna and Lower Austria and the Ecosocial Forum Vienna .

Working and project structure of dokNE

The ten research projects of dokNE II are focused on sustainability strategies and aim at examining concrete, practical issues in the fields of policy, planning, agriculture or tourism, often prone to tension between natural resource use, human attitudes, and nature conservation. Specifically, the projects are exploring sustainable development options in water governance, eco-tourism, rural development, sustainable farm management and farmers’ behaviour, science-policy interaction, sustainable universities and human nature relationship concepts. Each project combines social and natural science perspectives and knowledge, includes practical expertise and ensures a constant dialogue with all relevant actors in the respective research field.

Within the school a consensus and joint decision-making method is applied in order to integrate actual developments and innovative ideas of the young researchers. DokNE is regularly evaluated by an external international advisory board of scientists and practice experts.

Transdisciplinary PhD curriculum

DokNE provides excellent academic training for PhD-students in principles, theories and methods of  inter- and transdisciplinary sustainability research. For this purpose, lecturers from BOKU as well as external researchers and guest lecturers are integrated into the curriculum. The projects and relevant sustainability issues are examined and critically discussed on a regular basis in the doctoral seminar as the central space of exchange of the school.

“Vision and Mission Statement“ of dokNE

DokNE follows the ethical concept of sustainable development in its organizational structure as well as in the content of the research projects. This approach is set forth in a “vision and mission statement”, formulated in a consensus-based discussion process. The vision and mission statement of dokNE serves to establish a common ground, in light of the manifold and often unclear use of the sustainability term by science, politics and economy, and to underline the school’s clear position on “sustainability” in the sense of social equity and justice.

dokne II Team, Seminar Payerbach 2011