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Scientists and stakeholders meet to discuss priorities for research

The first day of the workshop began with an introduction from Mark Stafford Smith, Chair of the Future Earth Science Committee, and Frans Berkhout, interim Director of Future Earth, who explained the vision for Future Earth and set the context for the day’s discussions. Participants, who were an international group of scientists and stakeholders from the funding, business and policy communities then formed breakout groups to vote on the research priorities proposed in the initial stages of the consultation.

The groups had a difficult task: to whittle down the 450+ research challenges that had been suggested in consultations with stakeholders and scientists to a short list of the priorities for research on environmental change over the next 3 to 5 years.

Priorities were selected for their potential to contribute to frontier science and to the reduction of knowledge gaps, as well as their potential to generate societal impacts and to contribute to policy development. In addition, it was acknowledged that some of the proposed environmental challenges required research and action at different geographical scales, from the local to the global.

Voting took place on research priorities grouped under broad themes such as ‘global observation, models and assessment’. There was a strong correspondence between highly-rated priorities in the online consultation and the priorities that were highly rated during the workshop.

The workshop followed methods for collaborative priority setting developed by Bill Sutherland et al. in a 2011 article published online in Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

The outcomes of the workshop will now be reviewed by members of the Future Earth Science Committee and interim Engagement Committee, before the Strategic Research Agenda is published in Q3 2014.

The workshop was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan (MEXT), the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan (RIHN), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), and the Center for Sustainability Science, Taipei, China.