Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (GCSMUS)

Forschungsschwerpunkt: Ökonomie und Zivilgesellschaft

Projektteam: Prof. Dr. Gabriela Christmann

Verbundpartner: Leibniz-Institut für Raumbezogene Sozialforschung (Koordination) Technische Universität Berlin Sonderforschungsbereich 1265 „Re-Figuration von Räumen“ International Sociological Association. Research Committee on Logic and Methodology International Sociological Association Research Network on Quantitative Methods

Förderorganisation: Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)

Laufzeit: 01/2020 - 12/2024

The Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (GCSMUS), is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via the DAAD program “Higher Education Excellence in Development Cooperation – exceed" and based at the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin). GCSMUS seeks to introduce the use of social science research methodologies for the advancement of urban sustainable development, by connecting social sciences methodology, via knowledge transfer, exchange and implementation, with urban policy-making, planning and design.

More specifically, the GCSMUS puts forward an innovative methodological stance that attempts to bring together research methods of the social sciences and research methods deployed in design disciplines, urban planning and policy making, to then co-produce enhanced spatial methods for promoting urban sustainability in the form of evidence-based and low-impact urban development (LIUD). This is conceptualized explicitly as a peer-learning process between the 48 partners from 47 countries and 8 world regions, for there is a need, in both developed and developing countries, to close implementation gaps of LIUD approaches and cultivate transdisciplinary methodology.

The Center is represented by its speakers Nina Baur, Chair for Methods of Social Research (Department of Sociology at TU Berlin) and Angela Million, Chair of Urban Design & Urban Development (Institute of Urban and Regional Planning at TU Berlin). Gabriela Christmann, head of the IRS Research Group "Social Innovations in Rural Spaces" and Chair of Sociology of Space, Knowledge and Communication (Department of Sociology at TU Berlin) is a partner via the Berlin University Alliance.

In light of the Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030, the GCSMUS focuses on SDG #11, which is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. In order to contribute to the achievement of the SDG11 targets, the center’s main actions revolve around the advancement of five strategic elements – the principle of 5 E’s:

1. Education: Building a global methodological network via conferences,
2. Experience: Gaining applicable skills in research through combined teaching-research-courses,
3. Evaluate: Reflecting on methods via writing a PhD Thesis and developing project proposals for post-doctoral research
4. Exchange: Gaining applicable skills in practice through practical-empirical implementations and
5. Enhance: Workshops for bridging the gap between research and professional work.

The IRS's focus within GCSMUS is Action 1: Education. Members of the Action Steering Committee include: Nina Baur (GCSMUS Speaker), Gabriel Faimau (University of Botswana), Fraya Frehse (University de São Paulo), Gaurav Raheja (IIT Roorkee), Christine Ahrend (TU Berlin) and Gabriela Christmann (TU Berlin/IRS). Also represented in the Committee are ISA RC33 and ESA RN21.

Description of Action 1: Education

Most developed countries have a strong methodological infrastructure including systematic basic training at universities. There is also a strong international network providing both advanced training and academic discourse on how to further social science methodology. However, at the same time scholars lack discourse about what type of methods are suitable for research in the developing countries and how to build field contacts and an appropriate research infrastructure.

The lack of discourse in general throughout the developing countries may not be due to the lack of methodologies, but to the different focus of attention in different stages of social development with these countries. Taking China as an example, more quantitative and positivist research methods are preferred, and there may be less discussion on the theory behind the methods. In addition, in the developing countries, methodological training at universities is often even less systematic and training is provided by scholars who are generally not specialized in the area of research methodology. This results in scholars being in need of basic and advanced methodological skills, which, in turn, hinders participation in international methodological discourses and debates.
Suitability and necessity of action

Conferences on social research methodologies usually take place in cities in developed countries. Since expenses (conferences fees, travel and daily allowance) are fairly high and funding is markedly limited (and often even non-existent), scholars based in the developing countries – as participation numbers prove – are recurrently excluded from partaking. Thus, one of the first goals of the center is to educate in social science methodology by creating a global network of discourse on social science methodology that integrates both scholars from developing and developed countries, thus creating meeting points and building the basis for future collaboration.

In order to build this global network, lead partner from the developing countries organize annual “GCSMUS International Conferences”, namely Gabriel Faimau (2021, Botswana), Fraya Frehse (2022, Brazil), Gaurav Raheja (2023, India), and Jakkrit Sangkhamanee (2023, Thailand).