STEPS Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability: Application open for May 2020

STEPS Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability 

Brighton, United Kingdom | May 2020 

An immersive course on theories and practical approaches to sustainability, through creative, interactive and participatory learning. Topics include knowledge politics; policy processes; democracy in science, technology and innovation; politics of the environment; and inter- and transdisciplinary methods. Open to doctoral and post-doctoral students. 

The ESRC STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre carries out interdisciplinary global research that unites development studies with science and technology studies. Their mission is to highlight, reveal and contribute to just and democratic pathways to sustainability that include the needs, knowledge and perspectives of poor and marginalised people.

Photo by Pexels licensed under CC0 License

About the Summer School

The Summer School is held on the University of Sussex campus in the South Downs National Park near the vibrant cosmopolitan city of Brighton. This year’s course will be the ninth and last ever Summer School to be run by the STEPS Centre. It takes place during the 2020 Brighton Festival — an energetic and eclectic celebration of culture & arts from 2–24 May — with plenty of opportunities for students to engage. 

Themes and topics

The STEPS Centre has developed a unique ‘pathways approach’ to research and policy engagement, which recognises the co-evolving trajectories of change in society, technology and the environment. The pathways approach is used to appreciate how politics and power shape the social framing of knowledge and decision-making for sustainability. Drawing on innovation and development theory, science and technology studies, political economy, ecological economics, decision analysis and political ecology, the Summer School will explore and apply the range of associated crossdisciplinary concepts, analytical frameworks, empirical methods and policy strategies. Themes include:

  • Relationships between science, knowledge, framing, discourses and power
  • Understanding risk, uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance
  • Policy processes and the politics of sustainability
  • Methods and methodologies: interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practices
  • The STEPS pathways approach and its application in diverse settings
  • Politics and global discourses about climate change, planetary boundaries and the Anthropocene
  • Political ecology and resistance
  • The politics of nature and natural resources
  • How to ‘open up’ and ‘broaden out’ appraisal and decision-making
  • Innovation and socio-technical change
  • Emancipatory, democratic transformations to sustainability

Participants will be encouraged to engage and develop their personal research topics and ideas in interaction with other students and with STEPS Centre members.

How to apply

Please use the online form to apply:
You will need to enter personal information, including:
1. A brief personal statement explaining why you are applying to the STEPS Summer School (maximum 500 words) and details of your qualifications, professional experience and any publications, including a CV.
2. A reference, as an attached document (2 x A4 sides), from your academic supervisor/tutor or your current employer.
The application process is selective, and places are limited. The deadline for sending applications is 23.59 GMT on Sunday 26 January 2020. Please note that applications received after that deadline will not be considered. We hope to be able to let you know if your application has been successful by 28 February 2020.


A small number of bursaries are available to applicants whose country of origin is not in the OECD - including those who are currently working/studying in OECD-member countries.

Further Details | Application Form