Learning from COVID-19 and upgrading sustainable governance

By Husam Ibrahim, International Science Council (ISC)

The IIASA-ISC Enhancing Governance for Sustainability Report identifies the lessons learnt from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in relation to upgrading risk governance.

Credit: Adam Islaam – IIASA

As some governments and their administrations, individuals, and science systems begin to adapt to COVID-19, the struggle still continues in many countries. With that, the world is slowly leveraging the insights this pandemic has offered, standing at the cusp of a new world, which faces multiple stressors and is in need of more resilient governance.

Globally, national governments were put under the microscope. Some, such as Singapore and South Korea, succeeded with evidence-based, swift national leadership coupled with clear crisis communication. This proved useful for containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus and with it brought necessary recovery initiatives. In other countries, such as the United States, tackling the crisis has been characterized by governance challenges, including crisis plans with layers of shared responsibility being ignored in favor of “management by panic” approaches.

The pandemic has highlighted the flaws of neoliberal governance that prioritizes economic growth, deregulation and a separation between people and nature ahead of policies centered around human and ecosystem health and wellbeing.

To this effect, the IIASA-ISC Enhancing Governance for Sustainability Report goes beyond just considering the roles and responsibilities of governments, and adopts a broader definition of governance as, “the totality of actors, rules, conventions, processes, and mechanisms concerned with how relevant…information is collected, analyzed and communicated, and how management decisions are taken”.

In a world confronted with future risks such as spiraling climate change, ecosystem collapse and dwindling resources, global governance needs to be reformed.

The report states that the global community needs to engage in multi-directional and more integrated learning, problem identification and decision making. This should enable the shift towards more sustainable and equitable development in an ever-riskier world.

A disease with no respect for borders requires a collective response, said Volkan Bozkir, President of the United Nations General Assembly, adding that, “COVID-19 is a practice test that exhibits our weaknesses; we must build resilience now for whatever comes tomorrow.”

The pandemic highlighted widespread global fragmentation, which was initially observed through uncoordinated and sometimes competing actions. The report explains that organizations and agencies with similar objectives fought over resources, when instead they should have been bridging their divides and working cooperatively to eliminate competition. In the meantime, as the divide is bridged, special crisis provisions should be established for activation in case urgent action is needed again.

The report also recommends strengthening science–policy interactions to enable evidence-based decision-making, in which science systems collaborate with governments at all governance levels. Global and regional collaboration is especially important given the uneven scientific capabilities across countries and the need to tackle the pandemic everywhere to achieve health outcomes for all.

Working effectively at the interface of science and policy has been a challenge for many countries, which warrants further investigation. However, scientists have tried to step up to the challenges in some unprecedented ways.

For example, online repositories started publishing COVID-19 studies as pre-prints so that their findings could be used by all scientists quickly. As a result, researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences, and several hundreds of clinical trials have been launched, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.

Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, referred to international scientific collaboration in reference to COVID-19, as the “engine of global science” and said, “It is thus crucial that scientific responses are based on international collaboration that brings together the best minds and available data from different countries for the benefit of all”

Therefore, to reform global governance, evidence-sharing arrangements need to be centered on a global level with reliable evidence, which must be made available swiftly in times of crises. In order for this to happen, the report recommends the creation of specialized advisory bodies that offer consultations on a regular and on-demand basis. The report also suggests involving diverse stakeholder perspectives in these consultations.

Another key point to enhancing sustainable governance is risk reduction management, which should be a fundamental component of decision-making and a part of the investment in sustainable development. The report states that a global socio-ecological resilience and risk dialogue should be launched, engaging policymakers, civil society, the private sector, and the scientific community in mapping risks and their drivers at different scales and discussing their implications for risk governance, prevention and preparedness. Such an engagement process would increase the understanding and communication of the compound, systemic nature of risks driven by infectious diseases, climate change, and other socio-ecological stressors.

“A more holistic approach to risk that better takes into account the many intricate links between nature and people is sorely needed if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

– Anne-Sophie Stevance, ISC

Unifying fragmented global organizations and governance, forming scientific evidence-based policies with the help of science systems, and enhancing levers pertaining to risk management are only some of the recommendations in the report. For more information on upgrading risk governance read the IIASA-ISC Enhancing Governance for Sustainability Report.

You can also watch the discussion on Learning from COVID-19 and upgrading sustainable governance as part of the launch event for the Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID World initiative, which explores the key themes of Sustainable Energy, Governance for Sustainability, Strengthening Science Systems, and Resilient Food Systems.

 

This blog post was first published on the website of the International Science Council. Read the original article here.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

A story of new beginnings

By Marie Franquin, External Relations Officer in the IIASA Communications and External Relations Department

Marie Franquin writes about her first six months as part of the IIASA Communications and External Relations team.

This year has certainly been a great challenge for all of us, migrating our lives online and our offices to the living-room. Last summer, I finished my PhD and was ecstatic to have found a job at IIASA that encompassed day-to-day work on my favorite skills: international stakeholder engagement, policy interface, and interacting with researchers, including early career ones!

All of these aspects were covered in the newly launched 2021-2030 IIASA Strategy that was published in the winter. My challenge remained to know how I could best apply my science to policy and research skills to contribute to these goals. How do I help a systems analysis research community move towards more impact and increasing stakeholder engagement?

It quickly became obvious that my position in the external relations team required multitasking and honing a series of skills. The first and top skill that I have kept developing for the past six months was interacting with international stakeholders from all over the world, which included not only our National Member Organization (NMO) representatives and researchers from these countries, but also IIASA researchers and alumni. Working at IIASA I have already gained experience in developing relationships with stakeholders of the research community all over the world.

© Swietlana Malyszewa | Dreamstime.com

The IIASA stakeholder community also sheds new light on the value of the institute’s expertise in systems analysis for building international scientific partnerships, whether it be formal ones with my colleague Sergey Sizov and his science diplomacy expertise, or by facilitating research partnerships between our NMO countries and IIASA researchers.

With my colleague Monika Bauer, I am also learning about the future of stakeholder engagement and how to build virtual communities, like she’s doing with IIASA Connect:

“We are building the global systems analysis network on IIASA Connect. This tool allows colleagues, alumni, the institute’s regional communities, and collaborators to directly engage with each other and take advantage of the institute’s international and interdisciplinary network. It is something completely new for the organization,” she explains.

Our recent partnership with the Strategic Initiatives (SI) Program was aimed at better understanding the IIASA NMO countries and their individual research priorities for the next decades. I learned about local challenges and strengths and how countries have managed to move forward as a nation or by working hand in hand with their neighbors.

Coming from a research background, I am fascinated by the insights I am gaining working with IIASA communications colleagues on how to promote research and its impacts. I particularly enjoyed working with Ansa Heyl, helping IIASA experts build their policy brief submissions for the recent T20 Italy call for abstracts. As part of my skillset and center of interest, I aim to apply my science to policy skills here at IIASA to support the researchers and impacts of the amazing work done across the institute.

Having mostly worked with and for early career researchers for several years, I remain sensitive to their needs for career development opportunities. I am therefore excited to work with colleagues in the institute’s Capacity Development and Academic Training (CDAT) program to further define and support research excellence at IIASA, especially in the very promising next generation of systems scientists.

Few workplaces are so well connected and offer so many opportunities to develop such a broad range of skills as the IIASA Communications and External Relations team. As we are working towards fulfilling the IIASA Strategy’s aim of strengthening partnerships, I look forward to continuing to interact with IIASA researchers and supporting the institute’s goals of making sure the work done at IIASA positively impacts society. So come and chat with me!

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Plan S: Promoting full and immediate Open Access publishing

By Luke Kirwan, IIASA Repository and Open Access Manager

IIASA Repository and Open Access Manager Luke Kirwan explains the ins-and-outs of the Plan S policy towards full and immediate Open Access publishing.

With Plan S, which has been implemented from 1 January 2021, new Open Access requirements come into force for project participants, which are intended to accelerate the transformation to complete and immediate Open Access. This has implications for researchers obtaining funding from funders supporting Plan S, such as the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) or Formas (a Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development).

What exactly is Plan S?

Plan S is an initiative that aims to promote making research immediately open access without embargo periods or restrictions. It requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms. A number of national and international research bodies, including the FWF and the European Research Council (ERC), are working jointly on the implementation of Plan S and the promotion of open access research publication. A list of these funding bodies can be found here and more detailed information on the implementation of Plan S is available here.

What you need to know

Starting from 1 January 2021, publications derived from research funded by Plan S research organizations must be made openly accessible immediately upon publication without any embargo period. This applies only to projects submitted after 1 January 2021. Furthermore, this material must be made available under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY). In some instances, a more restrictive license can be applied, but this must be discussed with the funding body.

Further guidelines are currently being developed for publications that are not journal articles such as books and edited volumes. From 2021 onwards, it is important to closely check the requirements of research funders to ensure that projects are compliant with any open access requirements they may have.

Papers published under Plan S funding has to include an appropriate acknowledgement. In the case of FWF funded research, it must for example follow the following format:

‘This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) [Grant number]. For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright license to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.’

Authors of papers published under Plan S funding will retain the copyright of their work, and will be providing journals with a license to publish their material rather than fully transferring copyright to them. Publishers that require a license to publish must allow the authors to make either the published version, or the accepted version, immediately available under an open license. No embargo period is permitted.

Routes to compliance

  • Publish in an open access journal
  • Make the accepted manuscript immediately available in an open access repository (like PURE) under a CC-BY license
  • Publish in a subscription journal where IIASA has an open access agreement (For a list of IIASA’s current agreements please see here)

COAlition S has provided a journal checker tool so that you can check a journals compliance with the Plan S requirements.

The FWF’s statement and guidelines for Plan S can be found here. The operation and success of Plan S will be reviewed by the end of 2024. For any further information or assistance, please contact the library.

Related links:

Science family of journals announces change to open-access policy (Jan 2021)

Nature journals reveal terms of landmark open-access option (NOV 2020)

Plan S toolkit (coalition S website)

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Cultivating a new set of core values at IIASA

By Shorouk Elkobros, IIASA Science Communications Fellow

Shorouk Elkobros interviewed Lindsay Radakovits-Smith, Deputy Head of the IIASA Human Resources (HR) Department and HR Operations Officer to discuss the institute’s new shared values.

What attracted you to IIASA?

I grew up internationally – I went to school in Austria, studied in England, and worked in Germany. In 2017, I joined IIASA because I felt I could use my international background as well as my academic qualifications in Austrian employment law and my specialization in Human Resources to the benefit of the organization.

Poster from IIASA mini core values guerilla campaign February 2019

What do you like the most about IIASA?

IIASA has an international workforce that is enthusiastic about cutting-edge research. I have never felt as valued a part of an organization as here. I am proud to be part of an organization where scientists research real life-affecting issues such as the spread of COVID-19 or wildfires around the world. From models and scenarios featured in the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports to their participation in UN General Assemblies. That is what I enjoy about my job, being able to support them in their endeavors to make the world a better place.

Can you tell us about the new IIASA core values (ASPIRE)?

When Albert van Jaarsveld became our Director General and CEO in 2018, he quickly realized that we did not have an articulated values set, so in the process of establishing a new HR strategy that will come into play in 2021, ASPIRE fulfills that role. It was not only the core values that we needed to identify but also what they mean. For example, what does it mean to be accountable, or why is having good integrity in your scientific work valuable?

Posters from IIASA mini core values guerilla campaign February 2019

Posters from IIASA mini core values guerilla campaign February 2019

Why is it necessary to have a shared set of values?

A set of values can be a conversation starter, and thus can be useful to promote a culture of belonging. It is useful because when we have core values to stand behind, they are easily reflected in the IIASA strategy.

How did you formulate the IIASA core values?

We said, let’s see what people think. We wanted this to be a bottom-up process rather than top-down from the executive team. We did a mini guerrilla campaign, put up posters with examples of values, and a potential definition to get everyone thinking and talking about it. It got the staff talking, and they came up with hilarious suggestions, which is how we knew that we were getting through to people. We did the campaign without prior notification on purpose because we wanted to get honest reactions to it, and we had positive as well as negative feedback. We then sent out a questionnaire to all staff to give their input on what IIASA values mean to them. All the core values are designed based on this questionnaire’s results, and the clusters of values our staff said resonated with them.

“Have your say” poster from IIASA mini core values guerilla campaign February 2019

Do you think IIASA embodies its core values?

There is always room for improvement, which does not mean that we are not living the values. It just means we could be doing it a little bit more proactively. We could also take a little bit more time to make sure that we stick to the core values or find out what they mean for us on individual levels.

I think it is vital for us to step back, have a look at what the values we are living in the workplace are, how we are behaving, how the institute is progressing, and ask whether we are living up to our values as well as we should be.

How do you foresee IIASA staff adopting these core values?

Values are intrinsic to any human being. For me, the people-centered value is what I try to achieve working in the HR Department. I aspire to help staff members understand the rationale behind all executive decisions. I hope that in the next two years, IIASA core values will be something that everyone knows and that they will be able to say they are proud to work at an institute where integrity, accountability, and respect are part of our identity.

With the new Chief Operations Officer (COO) responsible for operative functions at the organization, we are also working to introduce assessment frameworks in the new performance and development review process. In addition, we are introducing training for our managers and leaders in the organization so they can live by example and thus translate values into behaviors.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Crafting mines from satellite images

By Victor Maus, alumnus of the IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program and researcher at the Vienna University of Economics and Business

The mining of coal, metals, and other minerals causes loss of natural habitats across the entire globe. However, available data is insufficient to measure the extent of these impacts. IIASA alumnus Victor Maus and his colleagues mapped more than 57,000 km² of mining areas over the whole world using satellite images.

 

© Pix569 | Dreamstime.com

Our modern lifestyles and consumption patterns cause environmental and social impacts geographically displaced in production sites thousands of kilometres away from where the raw materials are extracted. Complex supply chains connecting mineral mining regions to consumers often obscure these impacts. Our team at the Vienna University of Economics and Business is investigating these connections and associated impacts on a global-scale www.fineprint.global.

However, some mining impacts are not well documented across the globe, for example, where and how much area is used to extract metals, coal, and other essential minerals are unknown. This information is necessary to assess the environmental implications, such as forest and biodiversity loss associated with mining activities. To cover this data gap, we analyzed the satellite images of more than 6,000 known mining regions all around the world.

Visually identifying such a large number of mines in these images is not an easy task. Imagine you are flying and watching from the window of a plane, how many objects on the Earth’s surface can you identify and how fast? Using satellite images, we searched and mapped mines over the whole globe. It was a very time-consuming and exhausting task, but we also learned a lot about what is happening on the ground. Besides, it was very interesting to virtually visit a vast range of mining places across the globe and realize the large variety of ecosystems that are affected by our increasing demand for nature’s resources.

The result of our adventure is a global data set covering more than 21,000 mapped areas adding up to around 57,000 km² (that is about the size of Croatia or Togo). These mapped areas cover open cuts, tailings dams, piles of rocks, buildings, and other infrastructures related to the mining activities — some of them extending to almost 10 km (see figure below). We also learned that around 50 % of the mapped mining area is concentrated in only five countries, China, Australia, the United States, Russia, and Chile.

Examples of mines viewed from Google Satellite images. (a) Caraj\'{a}s iron ore mine in Brazil, (b) Batu Hijau copper-gold mine in Indonesia, and (c) Super Pit gold mine in Australia. In purple is the data collected for these mines (Figure source: www.nature.com/articles/s41597-020-00624-w).

Using these data, we can improve the calculation of environmental indicators of global mineral extraction and thus support the development of less harmful ways to extract natural resources. Further, linking these impacts to supply chains can help to answer questions related to our consumption of goods. For example, which impacts the extraction of minerals used in our smartphones cases and where on the planet they occur? We hope that many others will use the mining areas data for their own research and applications. Therefore, the data is fully open to everyone. You can explore the global mining areas using our visualization tool at www.fineprint.global/viewer or you can download the full data set from doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.910894. The complete description of the data and methods is in our paper available from www.nature.com/articles/s41597-020-00624-w.

This blog post first appeared on the Springer Nature “Behind the paper” website. Read the original post here.

Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

The coronavirus crisis as an opportunity for an innovative future

By Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Director of and Emeritus Research Scholar at IIASA

IIASA Emeritus Scholar Nebojsa Nakicenovic explains how the societal disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic can offer an opportunity for a more sustainable and innovative future.

While the future of humanity has always been unpredictable, major challenges⁠ — like the current pandemic — have been an inevitable part of our shared history. What is different now, however, is that human beings have become the dominant force of planetary change. In other words, the Anthropocene has arrived, and with it an unprecedented opportunity to steer our collective future.

Science, technology, and innovation (STI) are the drivers of this change, and can also be the means of achieving a sustainable, equitable, and resilient future for both human civilization and the biosphere. These tools, however, need to be complemented with the necessary evolutions of our economies, public institutions, and behavioral norms. The rapid rise in inequality and resource consumption over the last few decades, for example, has led to increasing pressure on people and the planet in ways that are clearly unsustainable. It is within this context that the COVID-19 pandemic could become a disruptive event that triggers fundamental change toward a more desirable future for all.

Human history is rich with other instances of rapid social and environmental evolution, from the agricultural turn of the Neolithic Revolution some ten thousand years ago to the explosive changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago. However, it was the ‘great acceleration’ of the last 50 years, characterized by exponential growth of consumption and rapid degradation of planetary support systems, that brought us to the geophysical limits of our home world for the first time. These rapid developments were neither smooth nor pervasive, and were interlaced with many crises, wars and pandemics, natural disasters, and numerous other disruptive events. Yet over the last 200 years we’ve seen a 7x increase in the global population, a 100x increase in economic output, and a 20x increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

In the aftermath of major crises that caused deep disruption, loss of life, and the destruction of capital and jobs, a ‘new normal’ eventually emerged — the major depressions of the 1870s and 1930s, as well as the oil crisis of the 1970s, are just three examples among many. Events like these arguably amplified the limits and disadvantages of the ‘old’ and paved the way for the ‘new’, with each crisis catalyzing innovation and the re-direction of human activities towards a fundamentally new direction. Today, we might say that each caused a tipping point that led to new development and behavioral pathways.

The COVID-19 pandemic, one of the greatest threats to human societies in recent memory, can be seen as a similarly catalytic event. While history does not repeat itself, there are many similarities in the response strategies to earlier pandemics such as the Black Plague of the middle ages and the Spanish Flu of the 1920s, including policies of ‘social distancing’ and isolation and barriers of entry to those from ‘outside’. Even the word quarantine (meaning ‘forty days’ in Venetian) was first coined during the plague epidemic of the 14th century.

Photo by Cheng Feng on Unsplash

Today’s crisis, as in the past, has revealed the worst parts of our nature, as with the callous exclusion of the needy, homeless, and migrants from the emerging responses, as well as the hoarding of perceived scarce goods by the well-off. At the same time, the pandemic has brought out some of the best human characteristics: self-sacrifice in helping others, renewed empathy and solidarity, and unprecedented global cooperation within science and between governments as we work to stem the worst of the pandemic.

Moreover, there is mounting evidence that the partial shut-down of the global economy has had demonstrably positive effects on the environment, such as reduced emission levels, lower pollution, and a resurgence in wildlife. While an economic depression is by no means a viable mitigation strategy for climate change and other pressing environmental issues, these data make clear that the right policies and priority investments in STI could have immediate and significant effects in our efforts to transition to a sustainable world.

Many scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders are already working to leverage this current moment of opportunity into lasting change. , a global research agenda aiming to help reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, offers six transformations that outline essential STI, institutional, and behavioral synergies to achieve the new direction for human development while providing critical support for the most vulnerable among us. The , a group of leading scientists convened by , is working to underpin the development of science-based targets for systems like land, water, and biodiversity in order to guide companies and cities towards sustainable pathways, as many thought leaders are beginning to reconsider the stability and efficiency of our current economic systems. Thomas Piketty, for example, has that every person should receive $120,000 at age of 25 to enable innovative initiatives among those who lack the capital to do so. Bold efforts like these will become increasingly necessary as we work towards a new set of planetary operating parameters that will ensure an equitable and sustainable future for all.

Our response to COVID-19 could help redirect trillions of dollars towards this agenda. While current measures aim to preserve existing institutional and economic arrangements, we should press decision makers to actively channel these funds into the drivers of innovation to bring about the future we want to live in. This deep and ongoing crisis may destroy some of the ‘old’ characteristics of this moment in human history, and could bring about the transformations in sustainability that will enable us to build a better future for all life here on Earth. The risk is that exactly the opposite will happen — and that is a risk that humanity cannot afford to take.

This piece was originally published on Medium and Future Earth.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.