3rd PhD Summer School


Conceptions of Sustainability – and How They Shape Research

Date July 18th  July 22nd, 2016, University of Basel, Switzerland

In science we encounter overwhelming diversity of sustainability conceptions. The international PhD Summer School Research on Sustainable Development helps to find way through this thicket: How do researchers in my discipline conceive sustainability? How do these conceptions frame my own thinking and research? What understandings are predominant in other disciplines? How can I harness these conceptions to rationalise my research and to spot research gaps? What pitfalls should be avoided when thinking and talking about conceptions of sustainability?

The PhD Summer School provides a platform to discuss such questions in a highly interdisciplinary and inspiring atmosphere. The participants will learn how to deal with the diversity of sustainability conceptions and will acquire a profound and differentiated basis for substantiated contributions in sustainability sciences. Distinguished guest speakers will give inputs and comment on the participants presentations.

The PhD Summer School will be highly interactive. Participants will receive a certificate of participation and 3 ECTS. The course will be held in English.


Participants will:

  • get to know the relevant scientific understandings of sustainability
  • discuss and elaborate approaches to deal with the manifold understandings
  • clarify conceptual assumptions regarding sustainability in order to make original research contributions
  • experience the rich interdisciplinary discourse in sustainability sciences among PhD students and learn how to locate their own research in this wide context
  • get to know finely selected international PhD students who research in the context of sustainability

Preliminary Schedule
Sunday Monday Tuesday
Natural Sciences
Social Sciences
8:45 - 12:15 am. Opening & Poster session Guest speaker: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Buchholz

Presentations of Participants
Guest speaker: Prof. Dr. Konrad Steffen

Presentations of Participants
Guest speaker: Prof. Dr. Susan Baker

Presentations of Participants
Concluding Workshop
1:30 - 5:30 pm. Introductionary Workshop on Conception of Sustainability ongoing ongoing ongoing Workshop & Presentations (ending approx. at 4 pm.)
Welcome Event Evening event
Target group

Advanced PhD students from any discipline who research in the field of sustainability and who are passionate about furthering the interdisciplinary discourse.

Contributions of participants

The PhD Summer School is highly interactive and requires active attendance from the participants, including:

  • an oral presentation, commented by senior researchers and peers
  • presentation of a poster on your understanding of sustainability in your research
  • preliminary writing of a text on your scientific understanding of sustainability
  • preliminary reading of preparing texts

Guest speakers

Our guest speakers are recognized experts in sustainability sciences and are renowned for their ability to think outside disciplinary boxes.

Natural Sciences
Prof. Dr. Konrad Steffen, director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) – climate scientist well known for his outstanding research on the effects of global warming in the Arctic.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Buchholz, University Regensburg and Research Professor in the Ifo Center for Energy, Climate and Exhaustible Resources at the University of Munich – environmental economist with a critical and creative mind.

Social Sciences
Prof. Dr. Susan Baker, Cardiff School of Social Sciences and Co-director of the Sustainable Places Research Institute of Cardiff University – expert in theories of biodiversity sustainability with broad experience in practical issues such as governance and climate change.

Organizers and Contributors from the University of Basel


To apply, send the following documents by the 30th of April, 2016 to Dr. Marius Christen:

  • a letter of motivation including your affiliation and your year of PhD (max. 200 words)
  • a description of your PhD research concerning the following questions (max. 400 words):
    • What is the aim of your PhD research?
    • In what respect is your PhD contributing to sustainability sciences?
    • What methods do you use?
  • one full paper of your PhD research (draft or published
The number of participants is limited to 15.

Fee & Grants

There will be no attendance fee.

Travel expenses and board and lodging are up to the participants. Unfortunately, we cannot provide any grants for travel and daily expenses.

For participants with low income we provide lodging possibilities with local students. For further information please contact Dr. Marius Christen.

Recommended Accommodation Possibilities in Basel

Low Budget:
- Youthhostel Basel
- Basel Backpack
- YMCA Hostel Basel

Medium Budget:
- wimdu.com - Apartments (for groups)
- We also recommend couchsurfing.org

There will be a limited number of places available to stay with students from the University of Basel. Please contact Dr. Marius Christen for further information.


The University of Basel provides a good and reasonably priced canteen in walking distance from the venue.

Getting around in Basel

Basel is a fantastic city offering a great number of touristic attractions and recreation possibilities – for example a swim in the Rhine through the historic town.

Further information on the City of Basel can be found at Basel’s tourism office.

Basel has very good public transportation. Further information can be found at Basel’s transport site. Note that some hostels include free use of public transport during the stay.


Dr. Marius Christen, marius.christen@unibas.ch

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