Initiative on 
Science and Technology for Sustainability

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The international Initiative on Science and Technology for Sustainability (ISTS) seeks to enhance the contribution of knowledge to environmentally sustainable human development around the world. The Initiative is based on an evolving vision of "science and technology for sustainability" that is:

  • anchored in concerns for the human condition, seeking knowledge and know-how that will help feed, nurture, house, educate and employ the world’s slowing but still growing human population while conserving its basic life support systems and biodiversity;
  • essentially integrative, bridging efforts across the natural, social and engineering sciences, the environment and development communities, multiple sectors of human activity, geographic and temporal scales and, more generally, the worlds of knowledge and action;
  • regional and place-based, focusing at intermediate scales where multiple stresses intersect, where complexity is comprehensible, where integration is possible, where innovation and management happen, and where significant transitions toward sustainability have begun; and
  • fundamental in character, addressing the unity of the nature-society system, asking how that interactive system is evolving and can be consciously, if imperfectly, steered through the reflective mobilization and application of appropriate knowledge and know-how.

The Initiative aims to make significant progress toward three broad and interrelated goals:

  • expanding and deepening the research and development agenda of science and technology for sustainability;
  • strengthening the infrastructure and capacity for conducting and applying science and technology for sustainability; and
  • connecting science and policy more effectively in pursuit of a transition toward sustainability.

The Initiative is an open-ended network. Policy is set by an international Steering Group, coordinated by two Co-Conveners (Robert Kates and Akin Mabogunje). The tasks of the Secretariat of the Initiative are shared between Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States) and TWAS, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (Trieste, Italy). To date, major funding has come from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Global Programs, and numerous regional institutions.

The Initiative’s web-based Forum: Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development facilitates information exchange and engagement with the larger community involved with science and technology for sustainability. It provides access to the Network for Science and Technology for Sustainability, the Initiative's effort to help build a virtual community linking disparate scholars, managers, and decision makers, and to promote the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and goals among a community working on science and technology for sustainability.

For more information visit or contact Nancy Dickson.


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Last Modified: 25 Apr 2006 11:49:54 -0400