Sustainability Research (3.0)

Credit Language

AC 6: Sustainability Research – Version 3.0


  • 6.1. Percentage of academic departments engaged in sustainability research
  • 6.2. Incentives for sustainability research

Questions & Answers

How has this credit changed between STARS Version 2 and Version 3?

  • Performance is no longer assessed based on the percentage of researchers that conduct sustainability research. The threshold for full points for academic departments conducting sustainability research is now 90% (was 75% under 2.2).
  • A detailed inventory of all research is no longer required, however an institution that finds that process to be valuable may claim bonus points in Innovation & Leadership.
  • A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the STARS 3.0 Summary of changes.

What type of research qualifies under this credit? Do both ecological and social dimensions of sustainability have to be covered in order to count?

Sustainability research involves research activities and scholarly work that explicitly address the concept of sustainability, further our understanding of the interdependence of ecological and social/cultural/economic systems, or have a primary and explicit focus on a sustainability challenge. Research that focuses on a sustainability challenge may or may not address both ecological and social dimensions of sustainability.

My institution conducts confidential research. How should this be handled in terms of conducting a departmental research inventory for Indicator 6.1?

The departmental research inventory should list one or more research project descriptions per research department. This applies to all institutions, regardless of the availability and transparency of data. Institutions may elect to not pursue the credit if an annotated list or inventory of the institution’s sustainability research by department cannot be provided due to research confidentiality needs. A least one research publication or project description should be listed for each department being counted.

Resources, Templates & Tools

Suggestions for Institutions

  • It may take some time to assess departmental research content (Indicator 6.1). Consider getting started on this early in the data collection process.

Potential Data Quality Issues

  • To count, sustainability research must explicitly address the concept of sustainability, reference ecological and social/economic systems, or focus on a major sustainability challenge. This should be clear in the documentation provided.
  • Indicator 6.1. Low data outliers when reporting research departments (5 or fewer reported departments for a medium-sized institution should be reviewed more closely) should be avoided and/or explained. Research Departments are typically devoted to a particular academic discipline (e.g., Economics, Environmental Science, or Sociology) or a closely related set of disciplines (e.g., Asian Studies or Physics & Astronomy).

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