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Act Sustainable
Research Conference

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16 - 18 November

Sustainability in times of declining democracy

and increasing polarization:
What knowledge and actions do we need?

It is with a real sense of urgency and concern that we invite you to Act Sustainable Research Conference 2022. Democracies around the world are threatened by more authoritarian leaders, polarization has increased and much of the progress towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG:s) have stagnated. The role of science in the UN Decade of Action needs greater focus and dedicated researchers. Join us for three half days to discuss what knowledge we need and actions we can take as researchers and universities.


Two years have passed since we organized the first Act Sustainable Research Conference. The overall question for discussion then was what the research community in Gothenburg could bring to the table to advance the role of science in the UN Decade of Action. The pandemic put our efforts to achieve the SDG:s on hold, especially in poorer parts of the world. Now, with a new war in Europe, inflation skyrocketing and a continued wave of autocratization sweeping across the world chances are bleak for bold political action that will steer development towards a more sustainable path. Furthermore, the voices of research in many parts of the world are threatened by authoritarian politicians wanting to limit academic freedom and use research for their own agendas.


At this conference we invite you to share, learn and discuss what knowledge we need and actions we can take for a sustainable future when challenged by decreasing democracy and increasing polarization. We have invited three keynote speakers that will highlight the link between democracy and academic freedom, promote the role of open science in creating an equitable and sustainable future and discuss the relationship between democracy, sustainability transformation and deep de-carbonization. During our thematic sessions participants will get to listen to talks and poster presentations from researchers approaching the sustainability challenges and opportunities from many different disciplines and perspectives. The conference will also include several roundtable discussions that will enable researchers interested in a similar topic to learn from each other and discuss new ideas for interdisciplinary collaboration.


The conference is organized by Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development, GMV, in collaboration with the Global Sustainable Futures Platform, based at GMV.  Global Sustainable Futures (GSF) was established by University of Gothenburg and Chalmers to promote internationalization and equitable collaboration with partners in low- and middle-income countries. By creating a supporting structure of services and places for exchange of all kinds of knowledge and experiences, we hope to see more partnerships, joint publications and student exchange programmes.

For Whom?

This conference is aimed mainly for researchers and PhD-students associated with Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg, and researchers in low- and middle-income countries linked to the Global Sustainable Futures platform. We also welcome researchers from other parts of the country and the world, as well as students and external stakeholders who want to learn about new research and exchange knowledge and ideas for how we can collaborate towards a sustainable future.

About the theme

The theme for the conference is Sustainability in times of declining democracy and increasing polarization: What knowledge and actions do we need? This theme connects with the overall theme for the Act Sustainable week 2022, Democracy in a changing climate, which focuses broadly on issues related to democracy and the relationships between changes in the social, political and ecological climate. In the plenary sessions of the conference, we will raise key issues such as the impact of democratic decline and increased polarization on academic freedom, future funding and security, and how the academic community can act for equal opportunities for all researchers in a more hostile climate.

​The Essentials

  • The conference is organized during three half days (November 16-18) as part of the Act Sustainable week, between 9 PM-1.15 AM (including take away lunch)

  • Plenary sessions will be held in Lingsalen at Studenternas Hus, thematic sessions in Lingsalen and in the main hall. 

  • Plenary sessions consist of key note speakers (one each day) and a a wrap up discussion of some of the key topics covered during that day

  • Thematic sessions consist of presentations from researchers and roundtable discussions based on our call for proposal.

  • For people not travelling to Gothenburg it will be possible to attend most parts of the conference in Zoom

  • During lunch you can choose to stay and mingle with the conference participants or join the student led sessions of Act Sustainability

  • There is a closing mingle for all participants at the Act Sustainable week on Friday at 2 PM

Explore the Conference programme day-by-day!

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Keynote Lecture with
Kwadwo Appigyei-Atua

Keynote Lecture with
Karin Bäckstrand

Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua is Associate Professor at the School of Law at University of Ghana, and has among other things conducted research on how to build academic freedom and democracy in Africa. He is also a board member of the Global Observatory on Academic Freedom, based in Vienna, among many other international engagements.

Karin Bäckstrand is Professor in Environmental Social Science at the Department of Political Science at Stockholm University. She is also former member of the Swedish Climate Policy Council and Associate Senior at Center for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at Canberra University, Australia. At the Institute for Future Studies she is principal investigator for the project Transformative partnerships for sustainable development. 

Keynote Lecture with
Ezra Clark

Dr Ezra Clark is Director ad interim of the Division of Science Policy and Basic Science at UNESCO and Chief of the Section of Science Technology and Innovation Policy, which is responsible for the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation adopted in November 2021. Ezra holds a PhD in Freshwater Ecology and Hydrology from Exeter University, United Kingdom.

Scientific committee

We are proud to present the members of the scientific committee that will evaluate all proposals and put together a programme for thematic sessions based on the contributions that we will receive. 

  • Johan Mellqvist, Department of Space, Earth and Environment at Chalmers and coordinator for Gothenburg Air and Climate Network, GAC·

  • Frida Boräng, Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg and research fellow at the Quality of Government Institute (QoG)

  • Olof Johansson Stenman, Department of Economics at the University of Gotheburg

  • Gunilla Krantz, Institute of Medicine, at the University of Gothenburg

  • Annica Kronsell, School of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg 

  • Nils Björling, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at Chalmers 

  • Filip Johnsson, Department of Space, Earth and Environment at Chalmers

  • Christian Isendahl, Department of Historical Science at the University of Gothenburg


Contact Caroline Peterson (

Act Sustainable is Chalmers University of Technology´s and the University of Gothenburg´s annual sustainability week for students, researchers, teachers and staff. The aim is to bring the universities closer together in multidisciplinary perspectives on sustainable
development through inspiration, and knowledge.

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