help identify solutions for today’s most pressing environmental
challenges, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently funded a
national synthesis center in Annapolis, Md., through a $27.5 million
award to the University of Maryland.
center is the newest in a series of synthesis centers—centers that
bring together and meld research from many disciplines of
science—funded by NSF over the last 15 years. It is the first of these
centers to integrate the natural sciences and social sciences, previous
centers focused on natural sciences only.
National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, known as SESYNC, will be
home to research on such issues as water availability, sustainable food
production, and the interaction between human activities and ecosystem
center is grounded in the philosophy that solutions to urgent
environmental problems require cooperation among natural and social
scientists and policy-makers.
five-year award to University of Maryland will allow this
multidisciplinary center to draw on the expertise of environmental,
social and computational scientists, engineers and public policy experts
through extensive national and international partnerships.
provides an unprecedented opportunity for researchers to combine
information, ideas and concepts from disparate science and engineering
fields into solutions for the complex environmental problems now
confronting society,” said Joann Roskoski, NSF acting assistant director
for Biological Sciences.
will foster the development of tools and approaches to educate people
at all levels about the importance of synthesizing research results,”
said Roskoski, “and will involve policy-makers, environmental managers
and the private sector in the translation of scientific synthesis into
address global environmental problems, fundamental, discovery-driven
synthesis research must be combined with a commitment to communicate
scientific insights to decision-makers and stakeholders, scientists at
the new center believe.
SESYNC, scientists and policy-makers will co-identify relevant research
needs and ways to ensure that the products of fundamental discovery are
linked to interactions among social and environmental scientists and
decision-makers at all levels.
collaborations of this new center are exactly the kind of innovative,
interdisciplinary approaches that are essential if we are to tackle the
complex environmental challenges facing our nation and the world,” said
Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland at College Park.
is a fundamental mis-match between the specialization required for
research excellence, and the integrated nature of today’s global
challenges,” said Margaret Palmer, a University of Maryland
environmental scientist who will direct the new center.
center will bridge that divide, synthesizing knowledge, data and
methods from divergent disciplines with the unifying goal of creating
effective, workable solutions.”
SESYNC will support projects that enhance our understanding of how humans can thrive in the environments on which they depend.
will address questions such as: what is the relationship between
cultural values and conventions and the sustainability of natural
resources like water? How do societies manage resources that cross
human-defined political boundaries? How can governance systems
effectively address these issues?
these syntheses, education and outreach research and activities will be
integrated throughout the center’s programs, with the goal of expanding
the ability of researchers, students and stakeholders to integrate
environmental science with social science research and knowledge.
center’s innovative goals will be accomplished through collaboration
among environmental scientists and computer scientists at the University
of Maryland at College Park; scientists and public outreach specialists
at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; scientists
at Resources for the Future; social scientists at the University of
Michigan; educators at Coppin State University, Gallaudet University and
Washington State University at Vancouver; and international partners in
both developed and developing countries.
a partnership with computer scientists at the University of Maryland,
the center will also advance the latest developments in information
technology designed to foster collaboration among scientists and to
place scientists and policy-makers on the same information plane.
Additional support for SESYNC is from the State of Maryland and the University System of Maryland.