The role of science in finding solutions to wicked, systemic problems This article belongs to Ambio's 50th Anniversary Collection. Theme
Why did solution-oriented research emerge and grow strong within Ambio? What was the identified need? Ambio’s aims and objectives state that “Ambio particularly encourages multi- or inter-disciplinary submissions with explicit management or policy recommendations”. While this certainly encourages solution-oriented research it does not sufficiently describe what solution-oriented research is. With its focus on the human–environment interactions Ambio has been a forum for discussing many multifaceted environmental issues, as is evident from the 50th Anniversary Collection of topics and studies. However, it is one thing to study and describe a complex real-world problem—actually solving it adds yet another layer of complexity. Finding solutions to wicked environmental problems is not a matter of simple technical fixes or command-and-control procedures, or even providing clear messages about problems and their causes; the solutions are often as complex as the problems themselves and require long-term engagement processes that involve real-world experimentation, collective learning, and continuous adaptation and reformulation of knowledge. As the contributions to this anniversary collection shows, the human–environment focus of Ambio lends itself well also for understanding problem context and exploring strategies for dealing with complex problems. Offering actionable solutions is a matter of providing guidance, examples, and ideally solid evidence for how to successfully intervene in sustainability problems in order to resolve or at least mitigate them (Lang and Wiek 2021).
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