The field of sustainability science aims to understand the complex and dynamic interactions between natural and human systems in order to transform and develop these in a sustainable manner. As sustainability problems cut across diverse academic disciplines, ranging from the natural sciences to the social sciences and humanities, interdisciplinarity has become a central idea to the realm of sustainability science. Yet, for addressing complicated, real-world sustainability problems, interdisciplinarity per se does not suffice. Active collaboration with various stakeholders throughout society—transdisciplinarity—must form another critical component of sustainability science. In addition to implementing interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in practice, higher education institutions also need to deal with the challenges of institutionalization. In this article, drawing on the experiences of selected higher education academic programs on sustainability, we discuss academic, institutional, and societal challenges in sustainability science and explore the potential of uniting education, research and societal contributions to form a systematic and integrated response to the sustainability crisis.

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