There is a need for more integrated research on sustainable development and global environmental change. In this paper, we focus on the planetary boundaries framework to provide a systematic categorization of key research questions in relation to avoiding severe global environmental degradation. The four categories of
key questions are those that relate to (1) the underlying processes and selection of key indicators for planetary boundaries, (2) understanding the impacts of environmental pressure and connections between different types of impacts, (3) better understanding of different response strategies to avoid further degradation, and (4) the
available instruments to implement such strategies. Clearly, different categories of scientific disciplines and associated model types exist that can accommodate answering these questions. We identify the strength and weaknesses of different research areas in relation to the question categories, focusing specifically on different types of models. We discuss that more interdisciplinary research is need to increase our understanding by better linking human drivers and social and biophysical impacts. This requires better collaboration between relevant disciplines (associated with the model types), either by exchanging information or by fully linking or integrating
them. As fully integrated models can become too complex, the appropriate type of model (the racehorse) should
be applied for answering the target research question (the race course).