Governance Monitor

GoMo Picture

Research Context

Governance is key for fostering social transformations. Hence, it is also of particular interest for scholars and practitioners of sustainability transformations. The transformative potential of governance for sustainability, however, has mainly been analyzed through individual, fine-grained case studies or comparative analyses in single fields and lack long-term monitoring. This research gap can be attributed to (1) the abundance of diverse, interconnected regulations across multiple levels, (2) the large amounts of governance data (e.g. policy documents), which cannot be analyzed manually, (3) the rapidly changing physical environment and the difficulty for policymakers to predict and react to these changes, and (4) the multitude of forecasting and assessment tools for policy monitoring. As a result, it remains unclear how governance policies promote or hinder societal sustainability transformations.

To address these challenges, Governance Monitor will develop a scientific basis for the comprehensive, long-term monitoring of political developments related to complex environmental issues. Specifically, we will monitor narratives (P1, P2 & P3) as well as sustainability assessments and measures based on indicators (P3, P4) to investigate if political processes lead to sustainability transformations. A focus will be given to policy fields relevant to the UFZ’s research units and POF IV activities, including the governance of bioeconomy, chemicals in the circular economy, and climate extremes. Its outcomes will provide a starting point for a comprehensive and long-term governance monitoring which includes best practices, methods, and guidelines. By doing so, we will break new ground in policy and sustainability transformation science. Such long-term governance monitoring will also complement UFZ’s established practice of monitoring physical environmental change and seek to bridge social and environmental research for sustainability transformation.


Sina Leipold (sina.leipold[at]
Alberto Bezama (alberto.bezama[at]

Support Team

Anran Luo (anran.luo[at]
Mariana de Brito (mariana.brito[at]
Beate Escher (beate.escher[at]
Walther Zeug (walther.zeug[at]
Christian Dusny (christian.dusny[at]

PhD Students

Henry Hempel (henry.hempel[at]
Theresa Herdlitschka (theresa.herdlitschka[at]
Sruti Modekurty (sruti.modekurty[at]
Matthias Welker (matthias.m.welker[at]

Graphic GoMo

We propose using ‘narratives’ to monitor diverse and interconnected regulatory developments in various fields. Narratives help navigate and understand the vast array of issue-specific policy developments across multiple governance levels (e.g. spatial and sectoral). In social science, a narrative ascribes meaning to social and/or physical phenomena by connecting a sequence of events and actions in a plot, including, excluding, and emphasizing problems, solutions, and actors. It, thus, illuminates the underlying structures that shape discussions and their resulting actions. These structures are critical for explaining current policy processes and anticipating how they might develop in the future as they determine how people translate human problems (e.g. flooding) into policy solutions (e.g. flood-proofing homes).

PhD student: Theresa Herdlitschka, theresa.herdlitschka[at]

Advisors: Anran Luo, Mariana de Brito

Departments: Environmental Politics and Urban and Environmental Sociology

We will investigate how narratives on climate extremes (e.g. droughts, floods, heatwaves) governance evolve through time and space and identify who leads them. More specifically, we want to investigate which narratives are more successful. To quantify how narratives evolve over time, we will use advances in natural language processing and machine learning to automate the content analysis of large text corpora. Therefore, Governance Monitor will link climate extremes to different governance narratives through a longitudinal monitoring program to understand their interrelations.

PhD student: Sruti Modekurty, sruti.modekurty[at]

Advisors: Mariana de Brito, Christian Kuhlicke

Departments: Urban and Environmental Sociology and Environmental Politics

We will monitor the development of narratives of chemical policies through time and identify their relationship with the (lack of) take-up of assessment measures that define how chemical pollutants in the environment are measured and regulated. Risk assessment and management measures play a key role in determining acceptable types and thresholds of chemical pollutants in the environment. Yet, science-policy interface processes that lead to their take-up or emphasis of some measures over others is not often researched. As chemical governance plays a key role in monitoring the circular economy, tracking how chemical assessments evolve will also shed light on narratives of circular economy evaluations.

PhD student: Henry Hempel, henry.hempel[at]

Advisors: Anran Luo, Beate Escher

Departments: Environmental Politics and Cell Toxicology

We will monitor the development of narratives based on current data on environmental, social and economic indicators for bioeconomy. Indicators play a key role in deciding how we view the successes and failures of governance strategies. The co-development of indicators with diverse stakeholders as well as the multiple facets of why some indicators become prominent while others remain overlooked. For instance, the uptake of the material footprint into the SDGs combined with an ignorance towards political economy, work sociology, water, energy or biomass footprints is a puzzle to sustainability scientists. To address the myriad of possible models and indicators available, we will focus on sector models and indicators related to the governance area of bioeconomy.

PhD student: Matthias Welker, matthias.m.welker[at]

Advisors: Sina Leipold, Walther Zeug, Christian Dusny

Department: Bioenergy