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National Future Earth platforms as boundary organizations contributing to solutions-oriented global change research
- Suni, Tanja, Juhola, Sirkku, Korhonen-Kurki, Kaisa, Käyhkö, Jukka, Soini, Katriina, Kulmala, Markku
- Current opinion in environmental sustainability 2016 v.23 pp. 63-68
- communication skills, funding, global change, research programs, researchers, scientists, society, stakeholders, sustainable development, Europe
- Increasing international commitment is emerging to harness research to contribute to solving grand societal challenges related to global change. Examples include global research programmes like Future Earth and concerted efforts in the form of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. During the last decade and a half, diverse concepts and design principles have also been developed for solutions-oriented sustainability research. However, a number of challenges have emerged related to this new kind of transdisciplinary research. We argue that these challenges, related to, for example, research culture and stakeholder engagement, suitable funding, necessary interaction and communication skills for the researchers and end-users of research, and reward systems, could be addressed in a systematic way by new types of boundary organizations, and that Future Earth has potential to develop its national platforms into such organizations. We propose that these platforms, typically operating under research councils and science academies, have just the right mandate to take on important roles as mediators and facilitators for solutions-oriented global change research. They can create the necessary long-term relationships between academia and society, bring attention to capacity-building needs, and break old disciplinary research structures by promoting a new research culture where stakeholders and scientists find each other around relevant research questions. On a science–policy level, they can bring funders, policymakers, and scientists together to discuss how to overcome the key obstacles in the path of such change. Successful examples of such Future Earth platforms and activities already exist in Europe. Future Earth is in a position to spearhead the transformation of research culture from local to global level.