Gunilla Oberg

Professor, IRES
Professor, Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen

Contact Details

AERL Room 447
2202 Main Mall
The University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4

Research Interests


Dr. Gunilla Öberg is inspired by her experience as a leader of complex interdisciplinary research and education and her in-depth knowledge of chlorine biogeochemistry, environment and sustainability.

Her research deals with science for policy in complex areas where science is uncertain and disputed, presently focusing on chemical pollution and sustainable sewage management. The questions that drive her research are:

What kind of knowledge is needed, used and trusted? How does the knowledge used impact perceived solutions? How might we help decision-makers and the public ‘unpack’ assumptions, values and preferences that are embedded in such knowledge?

Prospective Students/Colleagues

How can science for policy be more transparent and useable?

Students and postdocs who hope to work with Dr. Öberg should share her enthusiasm for an interdisciplinary approach to integrating scientific expertise and policy. She welcomes applicants from a variety of backgrounds — law, science studies, and political science, for example — who want to join her team in examining the decision making process of chemical regulation, a field in which scientific consensus is often not possible. Öberg’s team is specifically targeting the regulation of micropollutants that are increasingly being detected in drinking water, humans and the environment. How to determine healthy levels of such substances remains a contested area. It is crucial to find ways to move forward when there is a struggle for epistemic authority. Öberg invites colleagues who can help strengthen the ability to handle a diversity of perspectives. In fact, the inclusion of differing perspectives can make decision making more robust, actionable, rigorous, and democratic, not least because of an increased ability to understand and mitigate risks.

Click here for a full description of the qualifications Dr. Öberg is looking for.


IRES Website

Egesta Lab

Google Scholar

University of Bergen Website


Science for policy

Öberg’s projects in this field focus on the production and use of scientific knowledge for environmental decision making. She has led projects on acidification, critical loads, and climate change. Her most recent projects deal with chemicals management and sustainable management of sewage in growing urban areas.

Her group, the Egesta Lab is, for example, exploring how different groups of scientists perceive and assess the risk posed by endocrine-disruptors (EDs). The global scientific community is deeply divided about ED-risk and the lack of scientific consensus is impeding the development of regulatory frameworks for EDs in many jurisdictions. The Egesta lab is interested in better characterizing the debate within the scientific community and to find ways to unpack and communicate the divergent perspectives held by scientists on each side of the controversy.

Lab members are also examining the relationship between the values held by scientific experts, their disciplinary identities and the evidence-based policies they recommend and exploring how embracing the diversity of values among experts can be used to strengthen the democratic process, focusing on controversies surrounding wastewater and chemicals management.


RES 500D Expertise under fire. Navigating the divide between scientific practice and science studies
SCIE 420 Sustainability for Community and the World
ENVR 200 Introduction to Environmental Science

Featured Publications

Gunilla Öberg, Geneviève S. Metson, Yusuke Kuwayama and Steven Conrad. 2020. Conventional Sewer Systems are too Time-Consuming, Costly and Inflexible to meet the Challenges of the 21st Century. Sustainability 2020,12, 6518

Robin Harder, Rosanne Wielemaker, Sverker Molander, Gunilla Öberg 2020 Reframing human excreta management as part of food and farming systems. Water Research 175: 115601

Gunilla Öberg, Kevin Elliot and Annegaaike Leopold 2019 Science is Political But should Not be Partisan. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 16: 6-7.

Gunilla Oberg and Annegaaike Leopold 2019  On the role of review papers in the face of escalating publication rates – a case study of research on contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). Environment International 131: 104960

Robin Harder, Rosanne Wielemaker, Tove A. Larsen, Grietje Zeeman and Gunilla Öberg  2019 Recycling nutrients contained in human excreta to agriculture: Pathways, processes, and products. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology 49(8): 695-743

Sarah A. Mason-Renton, Marco Vazquez, Connor Robinson, Gunilla Öberg 2019 Science for policy: A case-study of scientific polarization, values, and the framing of risk and uncertainty. Risk Analysis 39 (6): 1229-1242

Gunilla Oberg and Alice Campell 2019 Navigating the divide between scientific practice and science studies to support undergraduate teaching of epistemic knowledge. International Journal of Science Education 41(2):230-247

Noureddine Elouazizi, Gunilla Oberg, and Gulnur Birol (2018) Learning technology-enabled (meta)-cognitive scaffolding to support learning aspects of written argumentation. PALE 2018

Bajracharya, S., Carenini, G., Chamberlain, B., Chen, K. D., Klein, D., Poole, D., & Oberg, G. 2018. Interactive Visualization for Group Decision-Analysis. International Journal of Information Technology & Decision Making. DOI: 10.1142/S0219622018500384

Mason-Renton, S. A. 2018. On the limitation of evidence-based policy: Regulatory narratives and land application of biosolids/sewage sludge in BC, Canada and Sweden. Environmental Science & Policy, 84, 88-96.

Klein, D. R., & Oberg, G. 2017. Using Existing Municipal Water Data to Support Conservation Efforts. Journal‐American Water Works Association, 109(7), E313-E319.

Gunilla Öberg and Margaret del Carmen Morales 2016. Biosolids are wicked to manage: Land application regulations in Sweden and B.C. Canada. WEF Residuals and Biosolids Conference, April 3-6, 2016, Milwuakee, Wisconsin

Susanne Rostmark, Manuel Colombo, Sven Knutsson, and Gunilla Öberg 2016. Removal and re-use of tar-contaminated sediments by freeze-dredging: a case study of a coking plant in northern Sweden. Water Environment Research 88(9):847-851

Margaret del Carmen Morales*, Leila Harris and Gunilla Öberg. 2014. Citizenshit – The Right to Flush and the UrbanSanitation Imaginary. Environment and Planning A 46: 2816 – 2833

Gunilla Öberg, M. Gabriela Merlinsky, Alicia LaValle, Margaret Morales, and M. Melina Tobias. 2014. The Notion of Sewage as Waste – On Institutional Inertia and Infrastructure Change in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Vancouver, Canada. Ecology and Society 19(2)19

Per Bengtsson, David Bastviken and Gunilla Öberg. 2013. Possible roles of reactive chlorine II: Assessing biotic chlorination as a way for organisms to handle oxygen stress. Environmental Microbiology and Environmental Microbiology 15 (4): 991-1000

Brent C. Chamberlain, Giuseppe Carenini, David Poole, Gunilla Öberg, and Hamed Taheri 2013. A Decision Support System for the Design and Evaluation of Sustainable Wastewater Solutions. IEEE Transactions on Computer Science. Special issue on Computational Sustainability pp. 129-141

Jacqueline A. Belzile and Gunilla Öberg 2012 Where to begin? Grappling with how to use participant interaction in focus group design. Qualitative Research 12 (4): 459-472

Malin Gustavsson, Susanne K. Karlsson, Gunilla Öberg, Per Sandén, Teresia Svensson, Valinia, S., Ives Thiry, David Bastviken, 2012. Organic matter chlorination rates in different boreal soils — the role of soil organic matter content. Environmental Science and Technology 46 (3): 1504–1510.

Margaret Morales and Gunilla Öberg, 2012.The Idea of Sewage as a Resource. An Introductory Study of Knowledge and Decision Making in Liquid Waste Management in Metro Vancouver, BC. Canada. UBC’s Program of Water Governance Report.

Molodovskaya, M., Warland, J., Richards, B.K., Öberg, G. and Steenhuis, T. 2011. Nitrous oxide emission from heterogeneous agricultural landscape: analysis of source contribution by eddy covariance and static chambers. Soil Science Society of America Journal 75: 5: 1829-1838

Öberg, Gunilla, 2011. Interdisicplinary environmental studies – a primer. Blackwell & Wiley.

Öberg, G. 2009. Facilitating interdisciplinary work: using quality assessment to create common ground. Higher Education 57, no. 4, pp. 405-415

Lövbrand, E. and Öberg, G. 2005 Towards reflexive scientization of environmental policy. Environmental Science and Policy. 8(2):195-197