Forum for Sustainability Science Programs Roundtable
AAAS 2007 Annual Meeting – San Francisco, CA February 17, 2007
Session Purpose: To share organizational models and experiences of university-based programs for research and training on science and technology for sustainability to aid in overcoming barriers or challenges to program development. 2:00 – 2:20 2:30 – 4:30 Brief overview Roundtable Discussion of Program Challenges
Potential Discussion Topics Identified in Pre-Session Survey: Curriculum design: Determining which content/courses to teach at which levels, and whether to offer certificates within existing disciplines or create new programs Rewarding faculty: Addressing promotion and tenure structures that do not recognize interdisciplinary work Working across academic units: Effectively and efficiently integrating natural / social science and engineering research Funding: Identifying potential funding sources for researcher funding and student scholarships Applied vs. Basic Research: Finding an appropriate balance between applied and basic research, and maintaining academic rigor Attracting students: Marketing a program that is buried within another department or isn‘t part of a mainstream discipline Quality of researchers: Finding and attracting researchers and faculty with appropriate breadth and depth Institutional structure: Identifying strategies for working within strict university confines (ie. types of degrees granted or limits on number of electives) Creating public-private partnerships: Using others experiences (both of success and failure) to facilitate effective collaborations Defining sustainability science: Embracing a shared definition and coherently communicating to practitioners and academics what sustainability science is Career tracks: Identifying career paths that allow people to get hired and promoted Core Methods: Determining what methods should be taught and used, recognizing methods tend to be regional and place-based and drawn from a variety of fields Projects and research: Identifying practical real-life projects for students to gain experience that are of appropriate scope Evolution: Providing support structure for students and research while being flexible as the field evolves
Attendees were asked to identify those topics (listed above) that they were interested in discussing. Follow are the notes from the top 5 topics. Defining Sustainability Science Pam Matson, Stanford Work of her program has 2 goals: meeting needs of people; sustainability life support of the planet o Definition provides differentiation between basic scientists and those who apply work to carrying out these goals o Provides room for engineers and technologists o Also includes social sciences and institutional structure In determining which parts of S&T for Sustainability to focus on, Stanford looked at it‘s strengths o Energy, water, marine, land use and conservation o Started from its points of strength Tom Dietz, Michigan State Univ. MSU program is termed environmental science and has a charge to be inclusive o 2 types of environmental scientists: 1st type: focus on XXX 2nd type: focus on risk & uncertainty; more in line with ―S&T for Sustainability‖ o Commonly a clash between these two groups Land Grant universities often have good legacy of talking to people o MSU tries to determine where it can build strong networks Warren Flint, Five E‘s, Seattle, WA Pushes for sustainability across the curriculum Curiosity-driven science vs. mission-driven science o S&T for Sustainability has new focus on mission-driven science o Speaking this way allows all units in the university to relate In speaking about ―users‖ of the knowledge, think about individual stakeholders o Integrating work at the grassroots level with university research is one of the big challenges Bill Clark, Harvard, Moderator Referring to Pam Matson‘s earlier presentation [Grand Challenges in Sustainability Science]: Use-inspired research includes both basic and applied research Jim Buizer, Arizona State Univ. At ASU, sustainability is being driven from the top Now, too many researchers are saying ―I‘m doing sustainability science, too‖ o Faced with how to narrow from everyone‘s favorite pet project to essence of sustainability science ASU narrowed by basing it on a question: ―what do we want cities to look like?‖ o Organize research teams and curriculum around solving this problem Tom Tomich, UC-Davis UC-Davis has 150 faculty who say their primary interest is agricultural sustainability Since they have land grant heritage, experience with looking at user needs and peopledriven research o Setting priorities requires broad engagement with many different perspective, and that can be tough
Gilberto Gallopin, independent scholarly formerly UNEC-LAC Wording of ―sustainability science‖ may work better in some parts of the world than others o ―sustainability‖ seen as alright in developing countries o ―sustainable development‖ works better in developing countries that want to better their plight, not just sustain it o Not a trivial issue Also important to distinguish if you are talking about just the environmental or the environmental, social, and economic. Too premature to call this a new science; better to say it‘s an emerging field Bud Rock, ASU & former State Dept. We don‘t necessarily need to take definition of sustainability science beyond Pam Matson‘s definition o Any more makes it process-related, potentially setting imbalance in the agenda (ie. goals of working together rather than solving problems) o From government side, don‘t care about the definition; want applications to address problems Recommend looking at the problems to be solved Gary Machlis, Univ. of Idaho, National Park Service How will we sustain ―sustainability science‖ through this tide of popularity? o Sustainability in forestry science gone through long list of name changes / focus in the past 70 years Also, be careful: large cohort of students interested in sustainability demand their universities walk the talk in their operations Bob Kates, Independent scholar Sustainability science reader project that he‘s working on (see attachment) perhaps will define the field? o Seminal textbook often defines field o This is precursor to textbook o Important to determine how reader is organized and what content is included Uno Svedin, Swedish Research Council Sustainability singled out at SRC, and 1 billion set aside o Highest echelons said ―this is important‖ Sustainability is theme that joins together research areas o Let the machinery tell by its practice – sustainability science is what emerges o Allows for streamlining funding o Creates natural and social science link o Balance between curiosity-driven science and need-driven science Prefer to say ―science in the service of sustainability‖ Bill Clark, Harvard No one is pushing for S&T for sustainability to be a science of itself Rather, hope to identify set of practices and increase collaboration Group seems to be making commitment to being problem-driven [also as brought up in Grand Challenges Session] Susan, University of Canterbury, New Zealand [mentioned later, but relevant in this section] By saying certain groups are doing ―sustainability science‖ or ―sustainability‖ it implies that other research don‘t have to think about sustainability in their work
Society needs to require that everyone consider sustainability in their work, as ―safety‖ and ―security‖ are prerequisite concepts Everyone needs to figure out within their field what sustainability means; no definition required Comment [Pam Matson]: this approach may lead to missed opportunities; how do you know if you‘ve missed something if you don‘t have criteria/framework? Joan, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena [mentioned later, but relevant in this section] Description of sustainability science sounds much like academic discipline of design, incorporating economics, human factors with technology George Seielstad, Univ. of North Dakota [mentioned later, but relevant in this section] Way we are framing as ―Sustainability Science‖ does not allow that perhaps S&T are the problem, and aren't necessarily the solutions to the problem. The subject needs social sciences, humanities, policy, law, and other disciplines that might feel excluded by the title.
Projects & Research and Creating Public-Private Partnerships Tom Tomich, UC-Davis [speaking from experience in rainforest conversation & poverty alleviation partnership] Partnerships tend to be multi-layered and multi-scaled Louis Lebel, Chiang Mai Univ. Their program is paying attention to disadvantaged populations not addressed by aid agencies Evaluation of research by group? Interested in, but have not entirely succeeded at, having some measures of success be assessed by stakeholders or target communities Thinking about university as beyond just a place for students Runs a unit that is semi-independent of the university (physically not on campus) Alan Hecht, EPA Sustainability as problem-driven and definable on different scales o State / local levels might be easier for university research to deal with o Global issues more difficult Opportunity for convergence of different disciplines, offering new ways to solve problems (ie. computational-toxicology) EPA established collaborative network for sustainable development o Invite communities to go to their local universities with problems o Researchers help decision-makers make sustainability decisions EPA interested in putting academic research into practice; taking models and putting them through regulatory testing ground to find out what will work beyond model stage Jim Buizer Public-public partnerships on state / town level o In theory, university should be able to inform local government via their research o Oftentimes, timescale issues (city needs something now, university research doesn‘t have short timeframe) prevent that o Differences in mission, language, culture o Differences in risk (officials unable to make changes /shift gears easily; academics rewarded for new thinking) Public-Private Partnerships o Must understand that industry is looking at bottom-line / profit o University must ask how can knowledge help partner‘s bottom line
Include industry in curriculum development ASU uses oversight board with a dozen industry and dozen academics Curriculum and research as fully integrated is goal o EX. Urban heat island Include economics, health, cement company partners Research team works material into curriculum
Kathy Jacobs, Arizona Water Institute The Arizona Water Institute has been created as a ―boundary organization‖ focused on solving water problems o Operates program that places university employees within a state agency to help with spread of innovation o Allows for incorporation of university work in agency decision processes o Also provides feedback to universities to help focus research on issues that are important to stakeholders Academics what to help solve problems, though there still is some arm-twisting necessary to get them to sign up for this; incentives include wanting to help solve real world problems Tom Dietz, MSU Within the agriculture industry there is 150 years of experience of forming public-private partnerships o University plays a critical role in identifying and defining societal problems o Sometimes listening to society won‘t help identify all of the areas that are critical to sustainability Bill Clark, Harvard There needs to be a two-way dialogue Bud Rock, ASU Wonders if where funding / money is coming from is what drives research Academics largely prefer singularity It is the institutions/industries that are driving funding and setting the problems Kala Perkins, Stanford Based on experience in NASA EPO (education and public outreach) program, good model is to require students to work on a real project so that they graduate with experience Warren Flint, Five E‘s Perhaps we shouldn‘t let the university pick the problems [referring to Tom Dietz‘ comment] Instead, have students work in / with the community for a semester to see what the needs are Lisa Shaffer, UC-San Diego Interesting collaboration between Scripps and their MBA program o Focuses on lab to market o Student projects must be sponsored by both a Scripps and Management professor o Building understanding from the bottom up, as students are pushing faculty for projects Gary Machlis, Univ. of Idaho, National Park Service Example of their collaboration o NPS started with a narrow topic (national park conservation)
o o o
Found a corporation (Canon) to sponsor a fellowship Students do their dissertation on this theme AAAS serves as the administrator / broker
David Linette, non-profit working on cloud forests Reminder that potential private clients might include non-profits His organization particularly interested in conservation biology Bill Clark Question: What‘s most difficult for you in forming Public-Private Partnerships? Can‘t Make connection with user: 0 participants Can‘t get faculty to work together: 8 participants Can‘t get the money: 13 participants Have 1-3, but don‘t know how to do it: 4 participants [someone mentioned trouble sustaining the partnership] Bud Rock Wonder how much you would change your institute‘s name/purpose for the money. Perhaps pose to responding programs how many are brand new, and how many have recently changed purpose to follow money.
Curriculum Design and Institutional Structure What are unique or successful approaches and models? Louis Lebel, Chiang Mai Univ. Taking students out of the classroom for ½ semester for project-based work (works well for groups of 5-10 students) In reciprocal visits with other universities, visit the field cites rather than the main campus Amy Coombes, SF Chronicle Service learning scholar degree (tree-planting, working with a non-profit) had a big impact o Focuses beyond systematic academia problems to individual lifestyle changes that have a lasting impact Dave Allen, University of Texas From engineering perspective, he‘s created modules that faculty can easily adopt in a piecemeal fashion (ie. incorporating product lifecycle into mass balance discussions) Difficulty with how to judge quality, getting things peer-reviewed COMMENT: Hopefully Bob Kates‘ reader will help Nancy Dickson, Harvard Directs fellows training program o Includes pre- and post-docs o Group is international and interdisciplinary o Collaboration between fellows requires a variety of faculty to talk together / collaborate that otherwise might not Adam Henry, UC-Davis Transportation student By focusing on problems only, academic program becomes theoretically diffuse Students need to learn how to communicate effectively Also need to be strongly grounded in theory, and even look theoretically at better communication
Lisa Shaffer, UC-San Diego NSF‘s IGERT program provides great support for attracting / supporting PhD students in joint disciplines Tom Dietz, MSU Important to consider the language that faculty and students use in collaboration Peter Galison‘s ―Image and Logic‖ provides good analogy of turning a pigeon language into a Creole Bill Clark, Harvard Biggest challenges / successes is pulling together different groups of people with overlapping interest in the same problem o Trying to get the ―big disciplines‖ talking about what they can learn from each other COMMENT: at Columbia, students add an extra year to take a series of courses in multiple disciplines. How can we expect a program to cover enough in-depth within a discipline as well as enough across all disciplines and still have students graduate in a timely fashion? Louis Lebel, Chiang Mai Univ. Critical course to add in a Sustainability Science program is a critical thinking course in addition to, or as part of, more conventional, but very helpful courses on research methods and experimental/survey design o Helps provide students with understanding of type of thinking that is required in solving problems. Tom Tomich, UC-Davis Trying to determine how to make the program more than a sum of all the contributing parts Erasmus University, the Netherlands In the Netherlands, they have put together booklets on sustainability for bachelor‘s students in each discipline Seems that combine people with different disciplinary backgrounds is really something that should occur at the Master‘s level Alan Hecht, EPA Currently a grant out to look at best practice of sustainability in engineering curriculum AAAS should convene affiliates for similar conversation on what is going on within their disciplines; what they can learn Gilberto Gallopin, Independent scholar Be careful no to become ―messy science‖ Sustainability Science needs a methodology course Karl Turekian, Yale Yale has done science and technology of sustainability over the years but not easily identified as one linear program. Instead, "creative anarchy". Formation of School of Forestry under Gifford Pinchot started tradition in conservation, the essence of sustainability o Association with Theodore Roosevelt established seriousness of issue o Luniaries like Aldo Leopold reaffirmed the commitment of this new approach to an interest in the health of the environment as it was being developed In 1988, launched a program in the Study of the Environment in Undergraduate college, which became a full major
Later, a gift from alumnus Ed Bass established Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, encouraged the development and growth of Centers dedicated to the understanding of issues of the environment and sustainability. Aside from formal departments with interests in these issues other university involvement includes: o Yale Environmental News displaying activities in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies o Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies o Peabody Museum. These activities, plus Faculty of Engineering activities constitute S&T for Sustainability being advanced without a specific structure typical of other institutions—creative anarchy.
Masaru Yarime, Univ. of Tokyo In Japan, 5 universities and 4 research institutes working together on program Created a forum for private companies to engage with researchers Instituting interaction of personnel between universities, public research institutes, and private companies. Also launched Sustainability Science Journal Uno Svedin, Swedish Research Council Linkoping University, Sweden o Using ―theme‖ approach o Incorporating water, environmental policy, etc o Focus on caring for nest research to provide continuity o Holds seminars every week; participants exchange information and then return to their institution Joan, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena They are having trouble finding the right technical people to serve as mentors / reviewers of dissertations o AAAS should provide a pool of people willing to serve in that role COMMENT [Bill Clark]: The Forum (http://sustainabilityscience.org) can be that place John Thompson, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK – new STEPS Centre STEPS Centre brings together scientists from SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research (North-focused) and IDS – Development Research (South-focused) together Jointly writing papers on three key ‗domains‘ and their interactions – (i) food and agriculture, (ii) water and (iii) health and disease, and three integrating ‗themes‘ – (i) dynamics, (ii) governance and (iii) designs (methods) Developing common language and frameworks for analysis and understanding Aiming to devise and test a ‗pathways approach‘ to assess livelihoods and sustainability options for poor people in developing countries Reviewing the survey of sustainability science programs and listening to the deliberations here, a key challenge for us is how to engage effectively with partners from developing countries o Only one program out of the 49 listed in the AAAS survey is based in a developing country and only two focus on international development issues o Just as John Holdren asked each of us as individual scientists to tithe 10% of our professional time to working to increase the benefits of science and technology for the human condition and to decrease the liabilities, our respective programs should consider a similar arrangement for supporting Southern partners to become centres of excellence on sustainability science
AAAS can help foster those partnerships – and significantly increase the number of institutes from Africa, Asia and Latin America included in next year‘s survey of sustainability science programs
Participants‘ Suggestions for Future Sessions / AAAS work
Topics to discuss at Next Year’s AAAS Annual Meeting Identification of a systems approach of sustainability in various research institutions and how it is inserted in the respective organizational structure Bring together place-based examples of sustainability successes (communities, highered, businesses, etc) Need to talk about action items Compiled best practices and lessons learned from projects. Bring together students who can discuss their experiences A main topic should be ―ways to create new programs‖ Next year, maybe smaller breakout groups to go into more depth on specific issues. More dialogue on mechanisms to better connect evolving university programs in developed countries with institutions in the developing world. What are the critical problems people are working collectively on? Any results? Any solutions? Discussion on methodology, procedures, criteria of validity and truth, and interdisciplinarity of sustainability science. Discussion of challenges to classical science posed by sustainability and sustainable development issues. Examples of courses to compare and evaluate Developing approaches to sustainability research: exchange of approaches and assessment of them. Grad student specific studies. Business people added to mix – maybe a few venture capitalists Institutional / organizational models – comparison with 2-pagers as input including selfanalysis against 4-5 questions. A presentation of 3 successes and 2 failures followed by discussion. Focus on specific problem-driven solutions that are derived from sustainability efforts that connect universities and communities. Summaries of sustainability agendas as defined by principal funding agencies. Comparative examination of curricula from objectives to implementation strategies. Roster of best practices in use-inspired research and application of university based programs in the community setting for cross utilization among institutions, whether as education tools or broader application. An emphasis on partnership: universities in the user environment, universities in partnerships with the community. Bring in some interesting examples (eg. Research projects) seen from both the funding organization and the academic‘s point of experience. Interdisciplinary examples perhaps also geographical border crossing (ie. international projects) Bring students into the discussion and find their needs and wants for these programs. Bring professors doing this type of work to talk more at their challenges. Adding the international dimension to this discussion. Emphasis on the programs of partnership and direct engagement programs; grad students, universities, and communities
Additional Activities for the Center for Science, Technology, and Sustainability Look at other examples of collaborative enterprises to guide AAAS work. (ie. UCGIS) Expand Forum website to include examples of syllabi/curricula on sustainability science themes. Clearinghouse of Sustainability Science curriculum materials (courses, syllabi, experiential material, cases, etc) – 7 mentions AAAS should provide career mentoring program linking students with academics and professionals in the field Database of sustainable development project case studies Sustainability career mentorship program; allowing students to link with professors/professionals Facilitate partnerships between US/Northern Sustainability Science university departments/research programs and those in developing countries. Perhaps begin with regional exchanges in Africa, Asia, and Latin America Create a Section on Sustainability Science in AAAS to sustain this type of activity Ensure that Annual Meetings have organized sessions on Sustainability. Promote Sustainability Science so that universities recognize it as a legitimate program they should pursue. Job list for graduates of sustainability programs. Find funding for interns who would work within sustainability programs on program development and administration. This would augment our staff resources and give them hands-on experience. Curriculum review. Develop consortia to work together including science, engineering, design and business. Develop/raise funds for a pool of travel grant $ for ―sub-critical‖ schools can partner Linkage between developed and developing countries about sustainability science have to come by sharing knowledge between north and south; otherwise developing countries will remain consumer and never be producers of S&T. A regular space in Science for sustainability papers. Convene federal government leaders (agency, white house, congress) in a roundtable discussion that builds from the Roundtable Be the ―home‖ of the emerging sustainability learning and teaching community – this can begin as a web-based virtual community. Develop protocol & few completed cases that describe institutional/organizational arrangement. & performance conclusions. Scholarships for students Keep sustainability in the Annual Meeting for several years in the same way. Bring dialogue to Asia/Africa. AAAS should not duplicate existing efforts to organize sustainability efforts, such as AASHE. Make sure that the umbrella you build over this is both broad (inclusive) and focused (looking for specific outcomes). Reform university merit systems for professors to get equal credit for tenure when they teach outside their home department so that not extra work or work that can be undertaken only by tenured faculty. Compile list of funding sources for this type of work. Eurekalert could expand to have a topical press-release section for clean-technology and eco-living research. ScienceNow could expand to cover clean manufacturing, green science, and eco-living research news. Currently they don‘t like to cover technique papers or finding s that don‘t drive the scientific base of a field forward, yet some technical papers in the area of green chemistry, etc would really help revolutionize science education and labs. Sustainability Forum site is a bit confusing to navigate; any way to summarize topics/areas in a more user-friendly way?