WASS research programme

WASS's research programme aims to analyse and address some of the major concerns of today’s globalising and interdependent world. WASS’s research programme provides international, comparative, disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches.

This contribute to studying core societal challenges and concerns related to: 

  • food quality and food safety
  • environmental protection and sustainable resource use
  • healthy lifestyles and sustainable livelihoods
  • equal access to development opportunities.

In these domains, WASS focuses on exploring and understanding the interaction between institutions, practices and social change, often in relation to the material-physical world (of natural resources, technologies and artifacts) and from a diversity of theoretical perspectives.

Analysing the role of different kind of institutions (e.g. allocative, normative and interpretative institutions) and their relation with practices and active agency in different arenas and spheres of action brings deeper understanding of stability and transformation in mechanisms, patterns, phenomena and human agency within the WASS research domains of food, agriculture, environment, health and development. The challenges, approaches and core questions of the WASS research programme require the development of innovative qualitative and quantitative methods that bridge scientific disciplines.

Research challenges

Our research in these areas is particularly exciting and thought-provoking (from a scientific point of view) as the focal societal challenges are characterised by growing disparities, complexities and uncertainties. Growing disparities exist, for instance, in climate change impacts and access to, control over, and use of natural resources, but also in political power, and in economic poverty and prosperity. Contemporary uncertainties relate among others to knowledge and information, to the fluid boundaries between science and politics, and to diverging perspectives and interpretation schemes. And growing complexities make that simple cause-effect relations, universal institutional and technological solutions, and rough dichotomies of victims and victors are no longer sufficient for understanding the nature, dynamics and developments of these challenges.

We have formulated our research programme around the major societal and research challenges, grouping research questions into four major themes:

  • Disparities: Poverty, Wealth and Distribution
  • Responsible Production and Consumption: Sustainability, Health and Quality
  • Natural Resources and the Environment: Conflicts, Competition and Collaboration
  • Knowledge in Society: Contestation, Boundaries and Bridges