By James Dacey
What is the most important research question in Earth system research that needs answering in the next decade? Why?
These two questions have been posed by the International Council for Science (ICSU) in cooperation with the International Social Science Council in a new online survey.
Responses are being encouraged from scientists but the “Earth System Visioning” project is billed as an open, moderated process where absolutely anyone can chip in. What’s more you can suggest as many questions as you like just as long as you don’t repeat previous suggestions.
If you’re interested in posting a question you’ll have to get in before midnight on August 15th. You can also comment on the questions posed by others and this feedback will be analysed at a workshop in September, which will feed into a draft research strategy. A second meeting will take place in May 2010 to take on board feedback and then a finalized research strategy will be presented later that year.
So who are the ICSU and what do they hope to achieve with this document?
Well, unless you’ve been trapped in a time warp, it’s pretty obvious by now that environmental research programmes – and those related to climate change in particular – tend to be formed at a confluence between natural science, politics, and economics.
Amongst the ICSU’s funders are UNESCO and the US National Science Foundation and a lot of the science that went into the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) came ICSU-funded programmes.
The idea with their latest web consultation process is to help shape the environmental research agenda for the next 10 years, whilst encouraging the social sciences to play a more active role.
Is it a good idea?
Well, I saw the Age of Stupid yesterday – a new film about the imminent and severe threat of climate change – and if its gloomy forecasts are right then I really hope this ICSU survey is well thought out.