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LEARNING AND LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Building Interdisciplinary Research Capacity and Expertise in Social and Professional Responses to Sustainability at the University of Gloucestershire

Final Report Summary - LALSUS (Learning and living sustainably: Building interdisciplinary research capacity and expertise in (...) responses to sustainability at the University of Gloucestershire)

The overall aim of the LALSUS project was to collate evidence based research on the complexity of, and opportunities for, embedding sustainability as an interdisciplinary research activity at the University of Gloucestershire (UOG) and embedding education for sustainability across professional courses at the University level. The project sought to develop capacity and expertise so that:
1. inter-disciplinary research could be undertaken to inform policy and decisions in the area of sustainability; and
2. pedagogical research could be undertaken to inform curriculum change and assist with embedding sustainability into the professional courses at UOG.

LALSUS adopted an action research approach which invited collaborative enquiry, critical reflection and development of change strategies to improve sustainability research and education. The research progressed via two strands which focussed on distinct but related areas of UOG activity.

The first strand focussed on establishing a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration and developing research capacity. Its activities supported early career researchers and their supervisors. The project intended to influence the future makers via the establishment of junior researcher networks and professional development opportunities.

On the other hand, the second strand investigated how research based activities could serve to enhance the professional capacity of teaching staff in the area of sustainability. It focussed on curriculum change through action research with the ultimate aim of preparing students for addressing sustainability within their professional work.

The activities of the first strand were centred around the establishment of the Postgraduate researchers interested in sustainability matters (PRISM) network, which was a network of early career researchers established to support this project. Experienced researchers and research supervisors also formed part of the network which sought to engage with the conceptualisation as well as the applied practice of interdisciplinary research in sustainability. PRISM hosted interactive and topical research seminars and communicated through a national academic mailing list service (JISCmail) group. It held its first international conference in May 2011. Other results were achieved through the establishment of interdisciplinary research themes under the auspices of UOG's International Research Institute in Sustainability (IRIS).

The second strand investigated curriculum change with the ultimate aim of preparing students for addressing sustainability within their professional work. Research activity took place at a number of levels and included strategic level working with senior managers and strategic leads to embed sustainability in the academic frameworks of UOG, departmental working with heads and teaching staff to embed sustainability within their course offerings, group work which supported cross-department dialogue and addressed professional development needs of staff through seminars and workshops and, finally, work on individual level that offered research support mentoring.

In addition, the fellow was engaged in activities with institutions and agencies across the higher education sector in the United Kingdom, Australia and Europe thereby informing the project by leading research and practice. The external links also served as valuable communication channels promoting the project.

Therefore, the project generated various research outcomes which were detailed across 13 publications and communicated via eight international keynotes and eight international workshops. Impacts of the project were evidenced within UOG where research capacity for interdisciplinary and pedagogical research for sustainability was built and supported through various international activities. The project also influenced communities of research and practice in the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. Finally, it informed the work of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as well as national initiatives. Further information could be acquired through http://insight.glos.ac.uk/sustainability/Education/Pages/MarieCurieIIFProjectonSustainability.aspx.