Jointly experimenting for transformation?: Shaping real-world laboratories by comparing them
Journal article, 2018

Real-world laboratories (RwLs, German Reallabore) belong to a family of increasingly popular experimental and transdisciplinary research approaches at the science-society interface. As these approaches in general, and RwLs in particular, often lack clear definitions of key characteristics and their operationalization, we make two contributions in this article. First, we identify five core characteristics of RwLs: contribution to transformation, experimental methods, transdisciplinary research mode, scalability and transferability of results, as well as scientific and societal learning and reflexivity. Second, we compare RwLs to similar research approaches according to the five characteristics. In this way, we provide an orientation on experimental and transdisciplin ary research for societal transformations, and reveal the contributions of this type of research in supporting societal change. Our findings enable learning across the different approaches and highlight their complementarities, with a particular focus on RwLs.



Transformation labs

Sustainability transitions

Urban transition labs

Real-world laboratory

Living labs

Societal transformations


Niko Alexander Schäpke

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Franziska Stelzer

Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

Guido Caniglia

Leuphana University of Lüneburg

Matthias Bergmann

Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE)

Matthias Wanner

Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Mandy Singer-Brodowski

Freie Universität Berlin

Derk Loorbach

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Per Olsson

Stockholm University

Carolin Baedeker

Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

Daniel J. Lang

Leuphana University of Lüneburg


0940-5550 (ISSN)

Vol. 27 85-96

Subject Categories



Information Systemes, Social aspects



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