Weaving Hybrid Futures: Sustainability in Higher Educations with PBL Through Art, Science and Robotics

(This call has expired)


As a globally connected and interdependent community, we are facing increasingly complex and multidimensional socio-political, economical, and environmental challenges, and opportunities. With this multiplicity of factors and actors, keeping conceptions of sustainability realistic, and effective requires collective and coordinated action across disciplines, sectors, institutions, and geographies. Yet there is a lack of consensus as to what being sustainable is, and by what means we are to become sustainable. Defining sustainability is a double act of communication across disciplines and imagination which requires creativity and at times even speculation. How can we use often conflicting conceptions to imagine and design sustainable futures? And how should sustainability and transdisciplinarity inform education and equip future generations with the right mindset to face the challenges of their time?

Our understanding of sustainability is evolving along with what it means for our fields. Redefining its conceptions starts with conversations across disciplines and with re-thinking our current disciplinary system. Sustainable futures rely on our collective ability to imagine them, therefore, there is an obvious need for creativity in sustainability transformation.

This transformation requires more than technical solutions and environmentally sensitised practices; rather, it calls for innovative, fair and just methods for collective and creative collaboration between scientists, engineers, designers and artists, policy makers and educators to ensure that sustainability issues are addressed from multiple angles and across disciplines. Institutions of higher education increasingly prioritize curricula that train and prepare the next generation to work across disciplines in order to be able to address issues around sustainability. Problem- and project-based learning (PBL) approaches can be valuable methods for preparing students for this disciplinary entanglement. 

By bringing together and making available diverse perspectives, researchers and practitioners can better understand issues such as environmental, economic, and social justice and expose possible tensions between them. Sustainability educators and curricula and innovative pedagogies such as PBL have the potential to identify and transform the practices that render marginalized perspectives invisible and, in doing so, prepare students for more just and transparent action. In this way, the unspoken values and assumptions of conventional sustainability research and education can be interrogated, paving the way for transformative, updated, and relevant theoretical and practical tools for future exploration.

This special issue addresses questions such as:

  • Who defines “sustainability”? Where do the canonical discourses and ubiquitous concepts come from, and how do they become dominant narratives informing policy and decision-making. How does this enter higher educational contexts?
  • How can sustainability and its principles be woven into diverse academic programmes (such as robotics, art, design, communication, etc.)?
  • How should we scaffold productive collaborations across disciplines (for example art+science+engineering) to help us imagine and design sustainable futures?
  • How can PBL help create more diverse educational pathways, enact transdisciplinary engagement, and bridge understandings from the arts, humanities and social sciences with those from the natural sciences, computer science, and engineering? (STEM+ arts=STEAM)?



This special issue welcomes contributions within transdisciplinary and problem-based approaches in higher education. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Conceptualizations of sustainability coming from transdisciplinary higher education programs
  • The role of creativity in sustainability curricula for higher education
  • Art-based and design-based methods in sustainability for higher education
  • Participatory approaches for sustainability education
  • Cultivating transversal skills for sustainability in higher education through artistic and designerly methods
  • PBL in art and design for sustainability
  • PBL, creativity and transdisciplinary curricula
  • Sustainability and its challenges in the arts, art & science field, and transdisciplinary approaches
  • Sustainability, creativity, and emerging technologies (e.g. robotics, computational design, artificial intelligence, artificial biology)
  • Environmental and Social Justice in PBL
  • Art and Design activism and Design justice in PBL for higher education
  • Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction and Civic technology



ABRA (Artificial Biology, Robotics, and Art) is a project aimed to address innovation and renewal of education by developing transdisciplinary higher education methods that bridge the arts and sciences for enhanced sustainability, specialising in the fields of artificial biology, robotics, and art.

ABRA recognizes the need to develop transdisciplinary entanglements that keep pace with scientific research and emerging technologies (artificial biology, robotics, artificial intelligence, material sciences, etc.). The most pressing problems faced by human societies will require creative and innovative solutions from joint work across the fields of science, technology, art, design, and culture.


Formatting and submission

Research papers

  • Article length should be 4000-7000 words, excluding abstract and references.
  • Include an abstract of approximately 150 words, in italics.
  • Add 3-5 keywords.
  • Language: English.
  • The article should be submitted with all text and headings with font size 12, Times New Roman.
  • The abstract should be submitted by email at: abra-hub@pm.me, please use “Special Issue PBL” in the subject.
  • Microsoft Word files are preferred but PDF files are also accepted if necessary.
  • Use bold for your article title, with an initial capital letter for any proper nouns.
  • Please do not use more than three levels of section headings:
    • 1st in capital bold letters - centered,
    • 2nd in bold - left aligned,
    • 3rd in italic - left aligned.
    • Please do not number the sections.
  • All figures and tables are to be numbered using numerals in order of appearance.
  • Put figure and table captions below as: Figure 1. Data collection process.
  • Notes should be indicated by superscript numbers and presented as endnotes.
  • Diagrams, tables and other graphics should be included both in the text and submitted as separate files.
  • Please make sure you have the right to publish illustrations, if any.
  • Please use APA style (7th edition) for references.
  • Please add DOI (Digital Object Identifier) numbers when available.
  • three pages of Appendix.


Graphical essays

  • The graphical essay is a publication format where images play a prominent role in expressing the main ideas of the essay, as opposed to the text. Whenever possible, ideas should be expressed in graphical format as opposed to textual format. Videos, gifs or moving images are not supported at this time.
  • Include an unstructured abstract of up to 150 words.
  • Add 3-5 keywords.
  • Language: English.
  • The abstract should be submitted by email at: abra-hub@pm.me, please use “Special Issue PBL” in the subject.
  • The text formatting including choice of fonts and font sizes are at the latitude of the authors.
  • The page format is also at the latitude of the authors. However, we encourage authors to use a consistent page format throughout the essay, whenever possible.
  • The text for the graphical essay should be submitted also as a separate Microsoft word file.
  • The text length should not exceed 3500 words.
  • If using non-proprietary illustrations, make sure you have the rights to publish.
  • Please use APA style (7th edition) for references.
  • Please add DOI (Digital Object Identifier) numbers when available.

Proposed Timeline

Call Published: November 2022

Abstracts due: 15 January 2023

Notifications of preliminary acceptance: 1 February 2023

Full Manuscripts Due: 15 March 2023

Notification of Acceptance: 22 May 2023

Final Manuscripts Due: 26 June 2023

Publication: August 2023


Editorial Team

*Corresponding Editors

  • *Associate Professor Elizabeth Jochum, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • *Assistant Professor Anca Horvath, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • *Assistant Professor Foad Hamidi, University Maryland, Baltimore County, USA
  • *Matilde Ficozzi, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • *Associate Professor Lykke Brogaard Bertel, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Professor Martin Hanczyc, Trento University, Italy  
  • Professor Matthias Rehm, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Associate Prof. Laura Beloff, Aalto University, Finland 
  • Associate Prof. Timothy Meritt, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Associate Prof. Markus Löchtefeld, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Professor Pia Fricker, Aalto University, Finland
  • Karina Vissonova, Institute of Advanced Design Studies, Hungary
  • Postdoctoral researcher Judit Boros, Mome, Budapest