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8th May 2015

Clusters and Collaboration: How IFS is striving to help young scientists to serve sustainable development in the post-2015 landscape

No one - no scientist, no research council, no international foundation for science, no organisation with an interest in biological and water resources, and the way in which they are used in development, no-one who advises such an organisation, can escape the enduring challenge of serving sustainable development. As the internationally known scholar and environmentalist, GARRY D. BREWER, whilst at University of California in Berkley pointed out, the long-term evolution of knowledge has undoubtedly been one of human-kind's most distinctive achievements. However, as he also pointed out, and many of us realize, disciplinary specialization has costs, too, not the least of these being more fragmented knowledge and knowledge which informs realistic problems - only with great difficulty. Or, as a number of cynics have stated it: `The world has problems, but universities have departments'.

Why we cluster

The very real problems associated with sustainable development, which are typically being researched by IFS funded early-career scientists’ risk the same disciplinary fragmentation. That is why, under the ten year strategy, entitled ’working together’, in 2012, we introduced the IFS Collaborative Research Approach. As well as enabling and supporting research collaboration, it enables us to pose coherent thematic calls for applications (so far including: Neglected and Underutilised Species, and issues around Biodiversity Loss). At the same time, to facilitate individual research applicant's identification of an appropriate framework for their submissions, we organised applications into coherent clusters of research themes (Biological Resources in Terrestrial Systems, Water and Aquatic Resources, and Food Security, Dietary Diversity and Healthy Livelihoods).

Whilst these approaches may pose challenges for administering and evaluating research proposals, within IFS, the broader objective is to provide intellectual support and effective efforts that add value to the end result, such that the total is more than the sum of the individual parts. We pride ourselves on the intellectual freedom that applicants to IFS have to identify the problems extant before them, and to research the practical questions not normally asked by ordinary disciplinary pursuits.

As Deborah Stone rather perceptively points out in her book ‘Policy, Paradox and Political Reason’, people generally `represent the world in such a way as to make themselves, their skills, and their favourite course of action necessary'. Yet many disciplines and methods can contribute to an ongoing analysis of a problem, including one's own evolving appreciation of it.

So to paraphrase Brewer, again, ‘One needs to create and maintain a sense of optimism and excitement about overcoming the limitations of traditional institutions to solve complex environmental problems. A positive orientation is essential since, new demands often challenge, even threaten, old ways of doing business. Yet, at least as often new demands also create opportunities but only for those wise enough to adapt, lucky enough to evolve, and courageous enough to seize the moment.’

Recent blog posts

Two of our many grantees

Dr Patricia Folgarait

Dr Patricia Folgarait
Argentina

No. of IFS Grants: 2 (1995; 1999)


Current position:
Professor and Researcher, Unidad de Investigación en Interacciones Biológicas, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Awards
IFS Jubilee Award 2000

Prof Mawardi Rahmani

Prof Mawardi Rahmani
Malaysia

No. of IFS Grants: 1 (1987)


Current position:
Professor, Dept. of Chemistry, Faculty of Science & Environment, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

> Find out more about our grantees

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