The "Altenberg Workshops in Theoretical Biology" address key questions of biological theories. Each workshop is organized by leading experts of a certain field who invite a group of international specialists to the KLI. The Altenberg Workshops aim to make conceptual progress and to generate initiatives of a distinctly interdisciplinary nature.
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In this paper, we argue that in order to understand the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary dialectics in sustainability science, it is useful to see sustainability science as a kind of operations research/management science (OR/MS), and then to highlight the hard-soft distinction in systems thinking for OR/MS. First we argue that the commonly made natural-social science dichotomy is relatively unimportant and unhelpful. We then outline the differences between soft and hard systems thinking as a more relevant and helpful distinction, mainly as a difference between perspectives in systemic modeling toward models. We also illustrate that the distinction is methodologically useful to advance sustainability science by enabling us (i) to suggest novel ways of using existing theoretical, experimental, and computational resources of the sciences for renewable resource management, and (ii) to disentangle disciplinary disagreements in climate science.
Michiru Nagatsu is an associate professor at the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, and Practical Philosophy, the University of Helsinki. He runs Economics and Philosophy Lab and HELSUS Methodology Lab. His research uses a range of empirical approaches – including experimental philosophy, collaborations with scientists, interviews, integrated history and philosophy of science – to study conceptual and methodological questions in the philosophy of science.