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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Sustainability science seeks to identify and implement workable solutions to complex problems. This transdisciplinary approach advances a commitment to work across boundaries that occur among individuals, disciplines, and institutions to build capacities for informed and innovative decision making in the face of uncertainty and change. The concept of boundary work and related discussions of boundary objects and organizations are important, expanding focal areas within sustainability science. While communication is described as central to boundary work, insights from the field of communication have largely yet to inform theorizing about boundaries within sustainability science. In this paper, we highlight three communication perspectives, namely media studies, collaboration and partnerships, and systems theories, which are particularly relevant for understanding how boundaries form, the social context in which boundary work occurs, and informed strategies for enhanced boundary spanning and management. We use three case studies to illustrate how communication theories and methods provide dynamic and strategic lenses within transdisciplinary processes to enable collaborators to build capacity for change, sustain critical and reflective inquiry, and approach difference as generative in collective efforts to produce sustainability.

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© 2013 by the authors


This is an Open Access article published by MDPI in Sustainability in 2013, available online: