Why are we running the Postdoc Academy?

The transformation towards a sustainable society requires researchers to contribute scientific knowledge and integrate knowledge from society in order to transfer knowledge into action. Therefore, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and its partners see the need for:

  • more and better integration of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities in sustainability research,
  • a better recognition of inter- and transdisciplinary research in academia and,
  • excellent, highly competitive researchers who are able to lead inter- and transdisciplinary teams and academic institutions.

Thus, it is important to prepare early-career researchers for leadership positions in inter- and transdisciplinary contexts.

What are our goals?

For the Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership, the Robert Bosch Stiftung collaborates with four leading academic research centers to unite expert knowledge and educate the next generation of leading sustainability and transformation scholars.

How does the project work?

The Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership provides an intensive high-end program with four seminars in two years that broaden inter- and transdisciplinary research competencies of early career sustainability researchers and promote their qualifications towards transdisciplinary leadership. The program also offers seed funding (e.g. for stakeholder meetings or proposal writing activities) to small groups of participants, who plan to initiate research collaborations. In addition, an active network of current and former participants of the program will be established.

Who is the target audience?

The program aims at postdocs from across Europe who want to make an impact on the transformation towards a sustainable society and advance the complementarity of natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities by means of their research. They should consider themselves as intrapreneurs, who act responsibly and initiate positive changes and innovation within their institutions and strive for an academic leadership position. In addition to excellent English language skills and experience with inter- and transdisciplinary collaborative research, their research topic must align with this year’s focus topic “Land use practices in a globalised world”.

For detailed information, please refer to section application.

What are the contents of the program?

The program consists of four seminars (three full days each) over a period of two years. Each seminar will take place at one of the four academic centers and focuses on their respective expertise.

The seminars build on each other and are complementary.

The first seminar introduces participants to fundamentals of philosophy of science and different modes of knowledge production to develop their capabilities for inter- and transdisciplinary research throughout the whole program. We will present different approaches to doing research on land use practices, discuss with the participants how that requires inter- and transdisciplinary competences and explore how this may require particular forms of collective leadership.

The second seminar will explore the potentials as well as the challenges of transdisciplinary research environments and transdisciplinary learning, including individual reflections of the participants on their own profile and portfolio as a researcher. We will engage with transdisciplinary research methodologies as well as transdisciplinary learning processes on different levels (individual, organizational and social) and explore how to tackle typical difficulties in transdisciplinary research and learning processes through insights into existing examples related to land-use practices both from research and practice.

The third seminar will introduce resilience thinking and the social-ecological system (SES) perspective, both of which are deeply rooted in complex systems theory. Key concepts will be explained, and a specific focus will be placed on the importance of addressing interactions between humans and nature and how fundamental changes in these relationships are required if we are to undertake the transformations necessary to achieve sustainable development.

The fourth seminar allows participants to build on their transdisciplinary research practice by deepening their understanding of sustainability transitions and transition governance, including economic, political and cultural perspectives on transitions. We will focus on contextualized practices such as local experimentation and social innovation as well as processes of scaling and (de)institutionalization. The seminar features reflexive engagements with one’s failures and one’s role as researcher, interaction with practitioners and introduces innovative methodologies along with hands-on tools for developing an academic vision as transformational leaders of the future.

The seminars are linked by four thematic modules that create an overarching framework.

  • Module 1 engages with sustainability science as a research field and presents resulting challenges for theory and methodology according to this year’s focus topic “Land use practices in a globalised world”.
  • Module 2 aims to increase the understanding of how complex systems thinking is used in transformation and sustainability research. It will be discussed how change can be navigated in this development.
  • Module 3 deals with theoretical, methodological and process-oriented questions revolving around transdisciplinary research, such as quality criteria, mutual learning and differentiation/ integration. It also addresses challenges of the role of the researcher in these processes as well as “undisciplined“ career pathways.
  • Module 4 deals with issues of career development. It discusses how participants can develop individual and coherent research profiles that will help them to develop their capabilities towards transformational leadership.

What do we understand under this year’s focus topic “Land use practices in a globalised world”?

For detailed information on the focus topic, please refer to section application.

Where does the project take place?

The program consists of four seminars (three full days each) over a period of two years. Each seminar will take place at one of the four academic centers and focus on their respective expertise. The dates of the four seminars are:

  • 1st seminar from 6th to 8th October 2020 at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/ Germany
  • 2nd seminar from 9th to 11th February 2021 at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg/ Germany
  • 3rd seminar from 12th to 14th October 2021 at the Stockholm Resilience Centre/ Sweden
  • 4th seminar from 15th to 17th March 2021 at the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) in Rotterdam/ The Netherlands

Who organizes and supports the project?

The Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership is an initiative of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. It is a joint project of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the four academic centers Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) in Rotterdam. A Coordinating Office, which is located at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, is the central hub for people interested in the Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership.