The concept of the Anthropocene conveys a radical novelty: humans have become a ‘geological actor’ and are able to influence and affect the biosphere to an extent unprecedented in history. This new state of affairs poses intertwined challenges to ecological, technological, political and normative systems. It also raises hard questions about knowledge and science. The emerging field of tainability Science seeks to respond to such challenges. In this paper we focus on the interface linking sciences and society, and explore attempts within Sustainability Science to conciliate two possibly divergent goals. On the one hand, the sheer urgency of problems related to the Anthropocene (e.g. climate change) calls for science to be more responsive to societal needs and provide quick-and-ready solutions to ’real-world’ problems. On the other hand, a quality benchmark for science is still needed and wanted. How to avoid compromising one of the sides is an open question. In the literature on Sustainability Science, tendencies can be found to give science role to envision optimal, universally valid solutions to these challenges, as well as to negotiate these with society. If not cautiously done, this may lead Sustainability Science towards something akin to ‘social engineering’. Such a development faces risks of the following three kinds: (i) to ‘freeze’ a solution, i.e. losing critical/ reflective perspectives, (ii) to be less open to instances from society, (iii) to neglect the immanent plurality of wills in collective decisions making. We assess some of the assumptions and implications of such approaches, isolating their components with regards to the formulation of scientific questions, the procedures and methods employed, and the processes of transmission (and negotiation) of the results to society. We conclude by arguing that these challenges call for cautiousness when envisioning new forms for the intersections between science and society.