Research into environmental and sustainability sciences is dynamic, problem-orientated and growing at a rapid pace. Originally dominated by the natural sciences, research in these areas has increasingly moved towards the social and cultural sciences as well. Since its foundation in 1986, the Institute of Social Ecology (SEC), which is relatively small in international terms, has gained renown and international visibility through its inter- and transdisciplinary approach. Today, partnerships with the department are much in demand by stakeholders in academia and other sectors.
In recent years, the Institute of Social Ecology’s expertise in ‘social metabolism’ and ‘material flow analysis’, and the consequent land use indicators and insights into environmental history and socio-ecological transitions , have had a significant impact on international sustainability discourse.
In the Institute of Social Ecology, which is based at AAU’s Vienna campus, the AAU has an organisational unit that helps find solutions to societal problems through exceptional research, teaching and cooperation projects with partners. The institute has aprofessor each for the fields of social sciences, cultural sciences and natural sciences and also runs a Master’s programme (Social and Human Ecology), as well as an internationally renowned doctoral programme with the ‘Doctoral School of Social Ecology’. The cohort for this programme includes a large number of international students, many of whom have received grants from highly competitive funding programmes, such as the EU’s Marie Curie Fellowships. On the initiative of the SEC, a co-operation agreement was concluded with the renowned International Institute of Applied System Analysis (IIASA) at the end of 2014. The institute also represents AAU in the Danube:Future project, a flagship project of the ‘EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR)’. AAU is a core partner in this project.
Social Ecology is a genuinely interdisciplinary field of research. As such, the Institute of Social Ecology addresses various ‘scientific communities’, each with their own publishing culture, and can boast a large volume of internationally visible research. Researchers from the institute publish in the most highly respected international journals, which include Science, Nature Climate Change, PNAS, Global Environmental Change and PLOSone. Both nationally and internationally, the institute is highly sought-after amongst leading research units and high-level partners as a partner for cooperation projects. Together with organisations such as the OECD, the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Statistical Office (Eurostat) and other similar agencies, members of staff at the institute played a fundamental role in developing the instruments and indicators for the sustainable use of resources (materials, energy and land use) that are used for official statistics and environmental reporting today.