Gerhard de Haan majored in education, psychology, and sociology at Freie Universität Berlin. His doctoral thesis dealt with nature and education, and his habilitation thesis was devoted to the role of time in education. After a visiting professorship in Neubrandenburg, he became a professor at Freie Universität Berlin in 1991. Since 2011 he has been a professor of education and futures studies. His main research interests are future research, knowledge society, innovation research, and sustainable development. Currently de Haan's research is devoted to two main issues: What must a society do today to be a sustainable knowledge-based society in the future? and How should futures studies be done?
Professor de Haan has been active in educational research for over 20 years. He has organized numerous extensive research and development projects. He is currently the chairperson of the German National Committee of the UN Decade Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014) and the president of the German Association for Environmental Education. He is involved in numerous national and international committees and is a reviewer for foundations, governments, and research institutions. Professor de Haan has published on various topics, including education for sustainable development, knowledge society, risk research, cultural history, and education and the future.