Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Physical sciences (alone) can’t save us: we need to understand human behaviour, too.

Science is important in solving the world’s biggest problems.

But can the social sciences solve our planet’s biggest issues on their own?

Last month’s Woolworths’ and Coles’ plastic bag ban is a perfect example: environmental scientists have known for decades that plastic is harmful to the environment but changing habits at the individual level has not been simple.

Nature Sustainability’s Australian launch with (L-R) Tanya Ha, Rebekah Brown, Kath Rowley, Veena Sahajwalla and Robyn Schofield. Image credit: Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute/Claire Denby

Relying on the physical sciences alone to fix the world’s problems is futile. So the leaders of Springer Nature have decided it’s time for a journal that is broad based and cross-disciplinary. Nature Sustainability publishes research about sustainability from the natural and social sciences, as well as engineering and policy, and was launched in Australia on July 17 by Monica Contestabile, the Chief Editor of the new journal.

Academics are traditionally siloed into research areas and often forget to think about how the research will be embedded into society. Yet understanding human behaviour and how the public may respond to research can be the difference between failure and success in policy.

There is a need for academia and policy, along with the social sciences, to work together, so science can be developed with society in mind. And when these three things work together, real change can happen.

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