Future Earth launches eight initiatives to accelerate global sustainable development

Initiatives will establish connections between different disciplines, creating new networks and 'webs' of knowledge. Photo: Sylvan Mably via Flickr
New activities will encourage collaboration across disciplinary backgrounds on some of today’s most pressing global environmental challenges.

Future Earth has awarded eight new Fast Track Initiatives and Cluster Activities a total of US$850,400, fully supported by the US National Science Foundation.

Fast Track Initiatives and Cluster Activities build on areas of research strength in the existing Global Environmental Change (GEC) projects and programmes, and are intended to kick-start integrated activities and strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration. The new initiatives will produce specific outputs, such as publications, within a relatively short timeframe, or will develop a basis for agenda-setting research over the longer term. They will also allow for existing projects to develop collaborations and will support joint planning between projects.

Proposals for the Fast Track Initiatives and Cluster Activities were initiated and developed by representatives of the existing GEC projects, often in collaboration with other communities, and were reviewed by members of the Future Earth Science and interim Engagement Committees. The awards are for a period of 2 years, and will typically support co-ordination activities, meetings, and the creation of outputs such as publications.

The list of funded activities is as follows:

Exploring nitrogen in Future Earth
  • Establishing a cross-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder network to co-design an integrated nitrogen approach for Future Earth.
Scientific support for IPBES knowledge generation
Liveable urban futures
  • Defining critical pathways for co-produced interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary urban research. An output from this process will be an edited volume providing a representation of the different intellectual traditions of how ‘urban’ is conceived, and researched scientific domains focused on key interactions between urbanization, urban areas and environmental change. Chapters will be forward looking and will explore cutting edge science.
Bright spots: seeds of a good Anthropocene
  • Seeking, exploring and developing a suite of alternative, plausible visions of 'Good Anthropocenes' – positive visions of futures that are socially and ecologically desirable, just, and sustainable. This initiative will also identify and analyse ‘bright spots’ – places that demonstrate one or more elements of a positive future that might serve as seeds of a Good Anthropocene.
Global biodiversity monitoring, prediction and reporting
  • Bringing together observational, remote sensing and modelling communities that are collecting and using spatio-temporally explicit biodiversity or environmental data to capture, report and predict ongoing changes, and to develop integrated knowledge products (e.g. map layers, biodiversity trends) to support global monitoring initiatives, assessment mechanisms, and Future Earth projects.
Extreme events and environments from climate to society
  • Identifying, bringing together and mobilizing the different Global Environmental Change (GEC) scientific communities which together address a wide perspective on climate extremes, as well as the stakeholder organizations exposed to changes related to extreme events. The initiative will address the need for better predictions of the occurrences and impacts of extreme events, constraints on associated risks, improved adaptation techniques, and governance strategies.
Linking earth system and socio-economic models to predict and manage changes in land use and biodiversity
  • Bringing together the modelling communities in the Earth system‐, biodiversity-, and socio-economic sciences, in order to significantly advance the capabilities and approaches used to model human-environment systems, and to develop an integrated framework for socio-environmental modelling.
Sustainability for water, food and energy through integrated water information and improved governance
  • Developing a plan for research and application activities to improve the sustainability of water resources and the essential productivity of energy and food systems, and to advance integrated application of sustainable development principles in the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus at all scales. 

The total funding includes support to two groups of complementary proposals, one on polar issues, one on climate research and services for Africa. Each of these was identified as addressing key challenges, but requiring more co-ordination and integration. These groups have been awarded seed funding to support the development of collaborative and integrated proposals.


These initiatives are supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. GEO-1408965. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.