Doctorate in Business and Socioeconomic Sciences

Research Profile Sabine Sedlacek

Sabine Sedlacek

Associate Professor, Vice-President for Research, Head of the Department of Sustainability, Governance, and Methods

Description of Research Profile

As a trained geographer with a special focus in spatial development and economic geography Sabine started her academic career as a full-time researcher and developed her interdisciplinary research profile based on empirical research in the area of environmental policy, sustainable development, multi-stakeholder governance and planning. Her venia docendi in ‘Environmental studies, governance and planning’ encompasses the full spectrum of her expertise. The current overall thematic context of Sabine’s research profile addresses the implementation of sustainable development at different spatial scales which is of scientific as well as political interest. This interest started with a concrete policy driven progression in regional development where conventional regional economic development has been challenged by the European Union’s requirements of implementing sustainable strategies at the regional level. The need for policy coordination as well as the necessity to empower new institutional actors as legitimate partners in decision making processes established a new field for academic research – governance for sustainable development. Research in the area of governance for sustainable development includes a focus on different governance mechanisms and the factors facilitating the resulting governance processes. In this regard, the role of different institutional actors in helping to initiate and develop transition processes towards sustainable development is one of the key factors. In essence different scales of governance (international, supranational, national, regional and local determine the variety of institutional actors and the extent of their coordinated and collaborative governance contributions. A further factor, which differs according to geographic scale, is the type of governance, which may include regional governance, public governance, environmental governance, and non-state market driven governance. Research on these different types, scales and governance actors helps to gain a holistic review of these multifaceted and dynamic governance processes. The combination of different types of governance in order to achieve the same political goal is especially relevant for a broader public policy analysis and evaluation. Sabine’s research in this area balances conceptual and empirical contributions and contributes to the recent academic debate from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The institutional economics perspective

The focus in sustainability related research on particular scales implies the consideration of different institutional stakeholders being involved in sustainability transitions and leads to governance for sustainable development, which is characterized by partnerships and networks of different institutional actors, and which emphasizes stakeholder participation and partnership as a steering mechanism. As accentuated in the literature, organizational theory seeks to explain variation among organizations in structure and behavior. Thus Sabine’s analysis of the role of institutional actors in development processes considers the identification of the relevant actors which means to examine “connectedness” and “structural equivalence”. Connectedness refers to ties between actors and structural equivalence highlights the similarity of the position in the network. Sabine’s papers offer both conceptual and empirical analyses of different types of institutional actors.

Knowledge spillover effects: From the institutional economics perspective another interesting angle is on knowledge spillover effects and here more specifically on the role and effects of universities and research institutions in urban and regional development which can be easily linked to both regional economic development and sustainable regional development. Research topics concentrate on the question of agglomeration economies more generally or through a more specific sustainable development lens. New interesting topics focusing on for example agglomeration economies in the context of knowledge spillover effects of universities and other research institutions where it is important to identify regional economic development effects of these institutions under study, ask for a deterministic philosophy and either a mixed methods or quantitative strategy including primary and secondary data collection and analysis which would help to support or reject the underpinning theory. The mixed methods approach could be either designed as a sequential explanatory or a sequential exploratory or concurrent triangulation depending on the concrete research question.

The governance perspective

The types of partnerships and networks of different institutional actors are a core determinant for governance for sustainable development. The constellation, connectedness and structural equivalence of the involved institutional actors varies across the different types of governance under study. Different types of governance are for example regional governance, public governance at the national level, environmental governance and non-state market driven governance.

Multi-level and multi-actor dimensions of governance in the context of sustainability: Research on how mechanisms of one governance regime influence and/or overwhelm the impacts of another are on Sabine’s research agenda. One strand of her work concentrates on the question of co-existence, interaction and co-evolution of different governance regimes where her empirical investigations detected different types of interactions between the regimes and provide a good basis for future research which should put more emphasis on the mechanisms through which one regime might influence another and how emerging governance regimes initiate and shape transition processes. It would help to evaluate how certain governance arrangements operate, which impacts they have and whose interests they serve.

Resilient regions and cities: What kinds of governance structures at the regional/local level have proved successful in addressing the economic crisis and providing resilience? What kinds of local/regional strategies are needed in order to initiate transition processes? One focus originates from the role of different institutional actors in helping to initiate and develop transition processes towards sustainable development at the local and regional level which is part of Sabine’s research agenda. Research on regional transition processes, which imply the ability to absorb external shocks and activate self-regulative processes could help to understand how certain regions could escape of their lock-ins.

Evaluating urban/regional climate governance: Environmental problems and issues, such as climate change, are inherently political in nature, which increases the need for legitimate and transparent democratic processes that allow societies and local communities to choose policies that they see as both equitable and effective. Around the world, cities are experimenting with new forms of governance that include collaboration and partnerships with civil society and business actors but what are the lessons learned and how can cities and regions learn from each other.