[Paleopsych] NSF: NSF Releases "Pathways to the Future" Environment Report
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Sat Apr 16 22:49:03 UTC 2005
NSF Releases "Pathways to the Future" Environment Report
Press Release 05-056
Research on human and natural-system links called integral
The new report says water should be studied as a system.
April 13, 2005
Accelerating environmental changes have presented humanity with
significant scientific and engineering challenges, according to the
new National Science Foundation (NSF) report, Pathways to the Future:
Complex Environmental Systems: Synthesis for Earth, Life and Society
in the 21st Century.
The changes the report cites are rapid shifts in climate and
ecosystems, the degradation of freshwater resources, global spreading
of diseases, and the increasing threat of biological and chemical
terrorism. Among the research challenges are the need to understand
how and why these changes are occurring--especially when multiple
stresses are acting on environmental systems simultaneously--and how
best to respond to them.
"Now more than ever," write the members of the NSF Advisory Committee
for Environmental Research and Education (ACERE), who authored the
report, "scientists must address combinations of factors in their
research, such as the interactions between human activities and
natural cycles at different spatial and temporal scales."
The report encourages NSF to maintain its foundation-wide emphasis on
investigations of coupled human and natural systems, as currently
embodied in the Biocomplexity in the Environment program, and
discusses related goals.
"Environmental research and education should remain on the forefront
of science funding," said David Skole, a geographer at Michigan State
University and ACERE chair. "This document is an attempt to address
the future of the ERE portfolio at NSF in these budget-constrained
times, while continuing to stimulate this important research. A main
focal point is research on coupled human and natural systems, which is
integral to understanding our environment."
The report also focuses on water as a complex environmental system.
"All human and natural systems are influenced by the distribution,
abundance, quality and accessibility of water," it says. With
continued human population growth and the uncertain impacts of
environmental change, the report states, ensuring an adequate quantity
and quality of freshwater for sustaining all forms of life is a
growing challenge. "Integrated, multidisciplinary, and multi-scale
water-related research is necessary for meeting the challenge."
The authors recommend that NSF focus on water as a unifying theme for
research on complex environmental systems. Because water is a critical
resource whose availability strongly impacts human health and economic
development, this research will advance scientific understanding while
addressing urgent societal issues, the report states. "The results
could then be applied to other potential focus areas for research on
complex environmental systems, such as land use, energy and climate."
Cheryl L. Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 cdybas at nsf.gov
Pathways report in PDF format:
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competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding
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