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Existing centres, focus areas, research environments and other initiatives within PSF@ORU

Research geared towards a sustainable future is pursued by individual researchers and research teams alike. These are in turn organised in various research groupings at Örebro University, such as centres, focus areas, research environments and other initiatives.

The Platform for a sustainable future, PSF@ORU, is intended to bring together all this research by being as inclusive as possible and by creating conditions for multidisciplinary collaborations through which solutions for the future may emerge.

Serving as a cohesive force, the platform will function as an umbrella covering the various disciplinary approaches. This list will be added to as and when new centres, teams, focus areas and research environments join PSF@ORU.

The multidisciplinary Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC) at Örebro University is one of the most prominent research centres in risk and crisis communication in the Nordic region. Contributing to a safe, sustainable, and resilient society by a reflexive use of communication are at the core of its research. At the centre, for example, individuals' risk perceptions and reception of different types of risk and safety messages regarding safety and environmental issues are studied. Other research issues concern communication activities that aim to help society, organisations, and individuals to adapt to future climate effects such as drought, heat, and floods. A third example concerns message strategies of authorities and other actors to manage and meet risks and threats where crises have already materialised. The researchers at the centre also study internal risk communication, specifically how internal risks are managed, categorised, negotiated, and communicated within different types of risk managing organisations to create safety, security, and sustainability. The activities are today largely funded by government and research councils.

The centre’s researchers have a solid experience of multidisciplinary projects and research environments in the risk and environmental area.

Learn more about Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC)

CSB is Örebro University's center for research in sustainable business. CSB’s purpose is to conduct research and development in the areas of circular economy, business ethics, sustainability reporting and communication, as well as in sustainable value chains. CSB’s vision is a sustainable economy that supports the development towards a fossil-free sustainable society without risking welfare, economy, nature, and quality of life for either current or future generations.

CSB was formed in 2018 with external grants from, among others, the Knowledge Foundation, Formas, and Vinnova as a base, and with special infrastructure grants from Region Örebro County. The center is built around four research nodes: In CSB Circular Economy we research, among other things, circular resource flows and business models, in CSB Business Ethics we study business ethics and ethical codes, in CSB Transparency we study compliance and sustainability communication, and in CSB Value Chain we do research on sustainable logistics and sustainable supply chains.

At CSB, interdisciplinary teams of researchers collaborate with leaders from the business community to increase knowledge about sustainable solutions for companies, business, and the economy with the aim of achieving reduced environmental impact, improved working conditions and a better quality of life.

CSB contributes to PSF@ORU with research on economic aspects of sustainability and with knowledge of the functioning of economies, economic principles, and mechanisms as well as of the boundaries and opportunities of the economy in the wider social system. CSB delivers important knowledge about the role of the economy in transformative change for a sustainable future.

Read more about CSB - Center for Sustainable Business here.

Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AMM) is a knowledge-driven university hospital department within Region Örebro County with the commission to educate, disseminate knowledge and conduct research and development on current occupational and environmental medicine issues. At AMM, there are 13 research-active employees, 10 of which are affiliated to Örebro University. AMM conducts applied research on the impact of various environmental factors on human health, often in collaboration with regional and national companies or together with regional, national and international partners within authorities and universities. The research includes work environment, indoor environment or external environment, and focuses on chemical, physical, biological, ergonomic, psychosocial as well as organisational risk factors.

Our research within occupational medicine primarily focuses on work environments where chemical and physical risk factors are common. The research projects include a number of different types of risk factors such as exposure to vibrations, particles and chemicals in different work environments. We investigate relationships between primarily chemical and physical risk factors and various disease outcomes, such as effects on the respiratory tract, cardiovascular disease, neurological damage, peripheral vascular damage and cancer. The research projects provide knowledge about safe and sustainable exposure levels and early signals of harmful exposures, which are used to identify and apply preventive measures.

AMM’s research within environmental medicine focuses mainly on children's exposure to endocrine disruptors, both during infancy and at the age of 3-5 years. We study the children's overall exposure to a broad distribution of chemicals in the indoor environments where children spend most of their time. The research aims at distinguishing important sources and exposure routes to identify preventive measures to reduce children's exposure to endocrine disruptors in a longer perspective. Impact of traffic noise on health and the significance of quiet areas in urban planning are other examples of our research.

ESERGO is a research team that is part of the interdisciplinary didactic research environment SMED (Studies of Meaning-Making in Educational Discourses) which was formed in 2003. ESERGO has ten members, of which one is a professor, two associate professors, four senior lecturers and three doctoral students. The team works with empirical and theoretical studies of environmental and sustainability education, with a specific focus on the ethical and political aspects.

Ethical interests include moral relations between generations, the global north and south, humans and nature, and humans and non-human animals. Political interests include critical analyses of challenges related to globalisation, internationalisation, multiculturalism, and neoliberalism and populism. Post/decolonial, agonistic and posthuman perspectives are important sources of inspiration in this research.

An overall goal for the team is to create new ways of understanding the relationship between social and ecological systems and how this can and should be included in education. The group has a specific interest in pluralistic approaches where different perspectives and conflicting opinions are highlighted for critical examination. Central theoretical and methodological starting points for the group's research are pragmatic philosophy, the democratic potential of education, discourse analysis and didactic theory. The group has an extensive international network and collaborates with researchers, among others at Cambridge University, Virginia Tech, Ghent University and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Learn more about the research environment SMED (Studies of Meaning-Making in Educational Discourses)

Learn more about the research team ESERGO

Environmental sociology focuses on the relationship between society and the natural environment. Environmental problems are created by society and must therefore be solved by society. This means that sociological perspectives are required to explain how environmental problems arise and what possible solutions are available.

The Environmental Sociology Group at Örebro University is one of the largest environmental sociology research groups in Europe and over the last ten years it has developed a strong international and national network, with representation in international environmental sociology organisations. Researchers in the group study issues such as how to govern transboundary environmental problems, how expertise and citizens influence environmental policy, conditions for a green societal transformation, sustainable consumption, and how individuals and groups work to live more environmentally friendly.

At present, 14 researchers are active within the group – three professors, four postdoctoral researchers, six senior researchers and one doctoral student – and they have published more than 130 publications in international scientific journals as well as a dozen monographs and anthologies. The research group and its members have long and broad experience of working in multidisciplinary projects but are also dedicated to pushing international environmental sociological knowledge forward.

For the environmental sociology group, PSF@ORU provides an opportunity to contribute with sociological knowledge and expertise in this broader context. The complex nature of environmental problems requires different forms of scientific expertise to be combined into multifaceted perspectives and well-thought-out sustainable solutions.

Read more about Environmental sociology

The research centre iRiSC has its research focus set on disease mechanisms and signaling systems of our immune system. The research relates to current health issues in society and healthcare, including concerns of infectious diseases – such as pneumonia, Covid-19, sepsis, and meningitis – but also inflammation-mediated disease in individuals who work in industries or are otherwise subject to high particle exposure. A main aspect of the research at iRiSC concerns how inflammation acts as an underlying cause of our common, non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, as well as psychiatric and neurological diseases. A common focus of the research endeavours address the issue of why some individuals become ill, while others remain healthy despite similar exposure to inflammatory stimuli. The research undertaken is of a translational nature, where questions raised in health care are investigated experimentally in order for the generated knowledge to feed back to the concerned party. The overall aim is to explain the mechanisms of the immune system in order to find strategies to modulate dysregulated, insufficient or overly powerful inflammatory responses. The knowledge can also help to identify risk individuals, and to provide opportunities for prevention and control of, among other things, unhealthy work environments.

By providing a platform for researchers from different disciplines and with complementary scientific competencies, iRiSC strives to build sustainable research by creating conditions for long-term collaborations in research and education. Much focus is set on making the research within iRiSC sustainable by ensuring that it is always kept dynamic and have long-term use and benefit. At iRiSC, we build structures aimed at supporting the growth of young researchers to develop their independence as a natural part of expansion but also to prepare for a future generational shift. Together with researchers at Örebro University and Region Örebro County, and in collaboration with national and international academia, the goal is to create a strong foundation for innovative research projects on a competitive international level. To reach this goal, strategic partnerships are developed and maintained in close scientific collaboration with interest groups, research institutes, and business partners.

One example where sustainability is in focus in the research at iRiSC is the SHAPE project, which links public health and gender with technological, architectural, medical, geographical, and atmospheric research disciplines to find solutions that reduce the risks of smoke from cooking over open fires; a widespread health hazard in many developing countries. Other interdisciplinary projects with a foundation in sustainability seek answers as to where hazardous particles are generated in traditional industry, such as foundries, as well as in state-of-the-art 3D printing, in order to give companies the opportunity to provide a sustainable and safe work environment. iRiSC has further been commissioned to lead Örebro University's strategic profile X-HiDE with the goal of taking a leading position in modern inflammation research. This initiative is based on a long-term strategy for the research and an infrastructure encompassing several research groups at the university and is executed in close collaboration with researchers from industry and national and international academia.

Read more on iRiSC’s webpage

MTM was founded in 1997 and is one of Örebro University's strong research environments with researchers in chemistry and biology. The centre conducts environmental research on chemicals and their effects on humans and the environment together with regional, national and international actors in the business community, authorities, universities and research institutes. MTM consists of several research groups, among them one large group focusing on environmental toxicants and metals and one group with a focus on systems ecology.

The environmental toxicant group (approx. 50 researchers) studies the distribution, transformation and occurrence of chemicals and metals as well as their risks to humans and the environment. MTM is a national leader in the analysis of organic pollutants, especially per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) and polycyclic aromatic chemicals (PAC), effect-based and effect-directed analysis, ecotoxicology, metabolomics and biogeospheric dynamics. Examples of areas studied are chemical risks posed by polluted areas and development of effective measures in polluted areas; health risks posed by 3D printing; health risks posed by exposure to chemicals in indoor air; spread of and risks posed by microplastics in marine and aquatic environments; spread, occurrence and transformation of PFAS as well as their risks for humans and the environment; and search for new toxicants in the environment with non-target analysis, effect-based and effect-directed analysis.

Ecotoxicological research studies the effects of environmental toxicants on development, the nervous system, transgenerational effects and mixing effects of environmental toxicants. Studies are also carried out on the presence of, and risks posed by environmental toxicants in waste and in recycled materials (eg rubber granules, recycled plastics, sludge, ash, slag). MTM also contributes to the development of technologies for the restoration of polluted areas, the purification of polluted water and the development of methods for the extraction of rare metals from waste. The group participates in several national and global monitoring programmes regarding PFAS and other environmental toxicants and runs the research profile EnForce together with a dozen companies. In health-related research, the relationships between exposure to environmental toxicants and diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases and liver disease are studied, as well as how exposure to environmental toxicants during foetal development can affect the risk of developing various diseases.

The research group Systems Ecology (4 researchers) focuses on the turnover of carbon and nitrogen in forest ecosystems and effects on soil functions in polluted areas.

Didactics of science and technology (5 researchers) conducts practice-based research that focuses on teachers’ ability to conduct science teaching for younger children and research on the pedagogical potential in creating and using images and visualisations.

Furthermore, research is conducted in Meal Ecology (6 researchers), towards sustainable food production in perennial systems, school meals as a pedagogical tool, and towards cultivation methods such as Controlled Traffic Farming and agroforestry.

MTM wants to drive the development of multidisciplinary research initiatives within PSF@ORU, for example towards ensuring non-toxic circular material flows, which is a key issue in the transition to a circular economy. MTM wants to contribute to PSF@ORU within all its research specialisations.

Read more about the MTM research centre

The Sustainability Centered Humanities research team conducts research on sustainability, social justice and communicative or narrative practices, focusing on the interfaces between them. Our point of departure is that to meet the big challenges of our time we need to understand humans as cultural beings. Our research explores culturally situated relationships and responses to social and ecological sustainability, and the tensions that arise between different interests. A general goal is to explore how an increased understanding of cultural, social, and ethical perspectives on a world characterized by complexity and crises can contribute to proposals for solutions. The theory- and method-developing research contributes in various ways to a problematization of widespread conceptualizations of sustainability as well as to new models of democracy, commitment, and sustainable ways of life.

The research team consists of researchers and scholars from various subjects within the humanities. Research projects tackle, for instance, people's relationship to crisis management, knowledge production, the more-than-human world, and constructions of the past and the future. The analyses engage with discursive practices such as experience/tradition, expertise, ideology/politics, identity formations, and fiction. The material we study include dialogue in social media, fiction in different media, and policy documents. Analysis methods come from critical and visual rhetoric; literary and cultural analysis; historical studies; critical discourse analysis and social semiotics. We collaborate and are in dialogue with other sustainability-oriented research groups and research environments within and outside the Department of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences.

The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Social Science (CESSS) constitutes a platform that brings together and creates synergies between environmental and sustainability researchers within sociology, psychology, and political science. We also collaborate with adjacent social science disciplines to strengthen social science research on environmental and sustainability issues. CESSS emerges from a long history of initiatives and collaborations within the social sciences at Örebro University which laid a solid foundation for the platform’s multidisciplinary collaboration. In 2020, CESSS were identified as a strong research environment by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Örebro University and the centre was awarded internal funding for 2020–2023. 

CESSS works to enable a constructive and inclusive research environment that facilitates long-term research collaboration and development across disciplinary boundaries. This includes supporting the development of multi-disciplinary research projects and high-quality programmes; facilitating research collaborations in the field of environmental and sustainability studies, among both university researchers and external actors; arranging internal CESSS conferences and international research workshops; and, organising a multi-disciplinary seminar series open to researchers from disciplines other than sociology, psychology and political science, as well as to practitioners with an interest in environmental and sustainability social science.

Environmental and climate problems pose serious challenges to contemporary society. Scientific research and policy institutions, such as the United Nations, have emphasised the need for social change and sustainable transformation. Social science research contributes to this movement with crucial knowledge and expertise necessary for the transformation of society towards a sustainable future. The research at CESSS focus on three interrelated themes: Public engagement concerning environmental and sustainability issues, Environmental governance and the state, and Knowledge production, environmental expertise, and learning.

In addition to conducting leading social science research on environmental and sustainability issues, CESSS also arranges multi-disciplinary courses on sustainability directed at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels, as well as courses for university teachers.  The centre also collaborates closely with actors outside of the university (agencies, municipalities, organisations).

CESSS contributes with social science perspectives, research questions, methods, and theories that are crucial to successfully implementing the PSF@ORU vision to contribute to social transformation towards a sustainable future.   

Learn more about the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Social Science

One of the greatest global challenges at this point in time, is how to secure access to healthy food for a growing population and how to do so sustainably. Sweden has every chance to become a leading knowledge nation for both sustainable production and sustainable consumption of healthy food. Örebro University is very well placed to contribute to this knowledge development through a nationally unique set of competencies, ranging from gastronomy to gastroenterology – in other words from meal science to medicine – with further contributions from strong research within social sciences and technology disciplines.

The university’s interdisciplinary research initiatives in the focus area Food and Health extend until 2022 and aim to take a nationally leading role in this area. The initiatives are based primarily on the environmental and social perspectives of sustainability. They include building infrastructures in the form of a platform for sensory analysis integrated with gastronomic knowledge and a nutrition platform with, among other things, a core facility for lifestyle intervention studies. Based on ideas generated during Open Space workshops, several interdisciplinary research projects have received funding through a special investment into postdoctoral positions. Planning and method development is underway for a unique and comprehensive study of a birth cohort.

In 2020, Formas granted funding for four new national research centres, one of which is coordinated by Örebro University. The research centre has been named PAN Sweden and is a collaboration between several Swedish universities and many partners from both the public and private sectors. PAN Sweden is based on the university’s focus area Food and Health and has a clear sustainability perspective. The research centre studies the entire chain – from food production to human well-being in terms of plant-based protein intake.

Read more about Food and Health

The Life Science Centre (LSC) is a strong research environment at Örebro University. It was founded in 2005 and consists of 28 researchers in molecular biology, molecular biochemistry, systems immunology and microbiology, functional bioinformatics, and experimental neuropsychiatry.

The researchers are working to develop new methods to improve risk assessment both in terms of environmental issues and human health. Within LSC, research is focused on antibiotic resistance in the environment, development of new vaccines and drugs, and development and application of methods in bioinformatics, omics, in silico modeling, as well as establishment of novel experimental methods and products.

The research is a combination of basic and applied research focused on the development of new in vivo, in vitro and in silico methods and applications in various biological fields. Central to LSC is the understanding of various biological systems and their disturbances. This includes research linked to both diseases and toxicological effects in the environment. The research is also focused on analyses of antibiotic resistance and the development of new vaccines and drugs. LSC is a driving force in the development of molecular biological methods, like those applied in medicine, to study toxicological phenomena in nature. This has led to the establishment of toxicogenomic methods for site-specific risk assessment.

The centre has strong ties to other national and international research groups as well as to business and government. The centre offers a stimulating research environment. LSC intends to conduct multidisciplinary research within PSF@ORU with the goal of developing methods and products that can contribute to a sustainable society and a circular economy.

More information about The Life Science Centre