Systems Thinking, and Green and Sustainable Chemistry

Systems thinking emphasizes the interdependence of components of dynamic systems. In the context of chemistry, systems thinking moves beyond isolated consideration of reactions and processes to consider where materials come from, how they are transformed and used, and what happens at the end of their life span. It draws attention to a need to balance the benefits and impacts of chemical substances and the role they play in societal and environmental systems.

Teaching chemistry through a systems approach challenges students to apply scientific principles to solve real-world problems, demonstrates chemistry’s role as an essential science in finding solutions to global challenges, and prepares future scientists for the collaborative interdisciplinary work required. A framework for analysis of systems thinking in chemistry education, consisting of three nodes or subsystems, has been published (Nature Reviews Chemistry 2, Article number: 0126 (2018); and sets the context for the IUPAC project titled Learning Objectives and Strategies for Infusing Systems Thinking into (Post)-Secondary General Chemistry Education (

The project also motivates the following call for papers…
A number of recent publications have challenged the profession of chemistry to transform itself to address emerging global challenges in the context of a rapidly changing world. Common themes in these calls are the need for integration of systems thinking into the practice of chemistry and for the reimagination of chemistry education to more effectively help educate scientists and citizens for their roles in a rapidly changing planet and society. The Journal of Chemical Education announces a call for papers for an upcoming special issue to report on and guide efforts to reimagine chemistry education through infusing systems thinking approaches throughout educational programs. See full details at

For more information about this project and call for papers, please contact Peter Mahaffy <>