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BEES Seminar: Making Science Matter: A Shift from Producing Knowledge to Linking it with Action

Monday, April 21, 2014

12:00 PM-1:00 PM

BEES Seminar
Making Science Matter: A Shift from Producing Knowledge to Linking it with Action

David Hart, PhD, director, Senator George J. Mitchell Center; research leader, Sustainability Solutions Initiative; professor, School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine

David is a former director of the ANS Patrick Center for Environmental Research.
Links to two papers providing background information for this talk:
For more information visit David's faculty page.
As the magnitude, complexity, and urgency of many sustainability problems increases, there is a growing need for scientific research that contributes more effectively to problem-solving. I propose a strategy for strengthening the capacity of research universities to help society understand and address a wide range of sustainability challenges, and explain how my colleagues and I have implemented it via the Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI). Supported in part by a $20 million NSF EPSCoR grant, interdisciplinary teams of SSI faculty and students have been investigating the interacting environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability problems in Maine (e.g. forest management, urban planning, climate adaptation, and renewable energy). Building upon the emerging field of sustainability science, SSI’s approach involves three key components: 1) problem-driven, solutions-oriented research; 2) analyses of dynamic interactions between natural and human systems; and 3) collaborations between researchers and diverse stakeholders that promote the co-production of solutions. To illustrate this approach, I compare the experiences of several SSI research teams working on issues including tidal energy development, adaptation to extreme precipitation, and forest vulnerability to an invasive insect. Despite these different problem contexts, the teams experienced common challenges and opportunities to mobilize interdisciplinary expertise and link scientific knowledge with societal action. I identify some key strategies that contributed to more useful outcomes, and consider the transferability of the lessons we have learned.