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Synthesis sought for environment studies

NSF report sets bold priorities for 10 years of interdisciplinary research.

Eugene Russo(erusso@the-scientist.com)

WASHINGTON, DC—Perceiving a need for a new set of priorities for environmental research and education, the National Science Foundation (NSF) this week released a new report titled, "Complex Environmental Systems: Synthesis for Earth, Life, and Society in the 21st Century." The report, presented at a public briefing January 8, calls for increased interdisciplinary research linking the work of ecologists, environmentalists, computer scientists, social scientists and others. Composed by the NSF Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education, the report lays out a 10-year plan to expand NSF programs in the social sciences, cyber-infrastructure, observing systems, and education.

Much of the report's emphasis is on "synthesis" research. Committee member James Kay, professor in the department of environment and resource studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada, offered the example of a river system: Investigating the health of a river requires knowledge of aquatic biology and stream dynamics, which...

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