Fig. 1. A conceptual framework of a transitional change of academic culture toward more effective knowledge production. We see three fundamental challenges: complexity, impartiality, and salience, which impede effective research for sustainable development. We argue that overcoming these challenges will require a transitional change of academic culture that builds on three interrelated coping strategies, namely a move toward increased problem orientation and associated increased interdisciplinarity and research partnerships. Problem orientation means that the real-world problems of actors should designate theory, methods, collaborations between disciplines, and research partnerships, not the reverse, in marked contrast to discipline-based inquiry.