Sustainability, Research & Development
MeetingsView a list of Sustainability-related meetings at The National Academies
Ongoing StudiesView a list of Sustainability-related ongoing studies at The National Academies
"Basic research is essential for assuring that, as societies enter future stages of the transition to sustainability, markets, governments, and other players have the intellectual capital available to address the problems they face and to create the products and processes they need."
– Our Common Journey
Opportunities and Obstacles in Large-Scale Biomass Utilization: The Role of the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Communities: A Workshop Summary (2013)
Based on a one-day public workshop held in Washington, DC, this workshop summary explores the current state of biomass utilization for bulk-production of sustainable fuels and chemicals. The discussion focused on the chemistry and chemical engineering opportunities to meet the aforementioned objectives. Both formal presentations and breakout working groups were components of the workshop in an effort to stimulate engaging discussion among participants from widely varying fields.
An Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Energy's Marine and Hydrokinetic Resource Assessments (2013)
Increasing renewable energy development, both within the United States and abroad, has rekindled interest in the potential for marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) resources to contribute to electricity generation. These resources derive from ocean tides, waves, and currents; temperature gradients in the ocean; and free-flowing rivers and streams. One measure of the interest in the possible use of these resources for electricity generation is the increasing number of permits that have been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). However, most of these permits are for developments along the Mississippi River, and the actual benefit realized from all MHK resources is extremely small.This report focuses on the findings and conclusions regarding a conceptual framework for developing the resource assessments, the aggregation of results into a single number, and the consistency across and coordination between the individual resource assessments.
While upfront cost is the biggest obstacle to widespread deployment of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, warm and cool white LEDs are already cheaper on a lifecycle basis than incandescent lighting and will likely be comparable to that of fluorescent lighting technologies in the near future, says a congressionally requested report from the National Research Council. The report assesses the status of solid state lighting -- LEDs in particular, as opposed to incandescent or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) -- and finds that lighting products based on LEDs will be able to support the standards for lumen output that Congress required in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Science for Environmental Protection: The Road Ahead (2012)
Tensions inherent to the structure of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) work contribute to the current and persistent challenges faced by the agency, and meeting those challenges will require development of leading-edge scientific methods, tools, and technologies, and a more deliberate approach to systems thinking and interdisciplinary science. This report outlines a framework for building science for environmental protection in the 21st century and identified key areas where enhanced leadership and capacity can strengthen the agency's abilities to address current and emerging environmental challenges as well as take advantage of new tools and technologies to address them. The foundation of EPA science is strong, but the agency needs to continue to address numerous present and future challenges if it is to maintain its science leadership and meet its expanding mandates.
Frontiers of Engineering 2011: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2011 Symposium (2011)
The practice of engineering is continually changing. Engineers today must be able not only to thrive in an environment of rapid technological change and globalization, but also to work on interdisciplinary teams. Cutting-edge research is being done at the intersections of engineering disciplines, and successful researchers and practitioners must be aware of developments and challenges in areas that may not be familiar to them. At the U.S. Frontiers of Engineer Symposium, engineers have the opportunity to learn from their peers about pioneering work being done in many areas of engineering. This report highlights the papers presented at the event and covers four general topics from the 2011 symposium: additive manufacturing, semantic processing, engineering sustainable buildings, and neuro-prosthetics.
Future Science Opportunities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean(2011)
Covering nearly 14 million km² (an area approximately 1.4 times the size of the United States), Antarctica is the coldest, driest, highest, and windiest continent on Earth. While it is challenging to live and work in this extreme environment, this region offers many opportunities for scientific research. However, conducting scientific research in the harsh environmental conditions of Antarctica is profoundly challenging. Substantial resources are needed to establish and maintain the infrastructure needed to provide heat, light, transportation, and drinking water, while at the same time minimizing pollution of the environment and ensuring the safety of researchers. This report suggests actions for the United States to achieve success for the next generation of Antarctic and Southern Ocean science. The report highlights important areas of research by encapsulating each into a single, overarching question. The questions fall into two broad themes: those related to global change and those related to fundamental discoveries.
Building the 21st Century: U.S. China Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovations
The global economy is characterized by increasing locational competition to attract the resources necessary to develop leading-edge technologies as drivers of regional and national growth. One means of facilitating such growth and improving national competitiveness is to improve the operation of the national innovation system. This report studies selected foreign innovation programs and comparing them with major U.S. programs. This analysis of Comparative Innovation Policy includes a review of the goals, concept, structure, operation, funding levels, and evaluation of foreign programs designed to advance the innovation capacity of national economies and enhance their international competitiveness. This analysis focuses on key areas of future growth, such as renewable energy, among others, to generate case-specific recommendations where appropriate.
In recent years, significant advances have been made in the science and technology of earthquake engineering, but problems, barriers, and bottlenecks still stand in the way of making the nation earthquake resilient. To help plan future research investments in the field, the NRC hosted a workshop to discuss next-generation U.S. needs for basic earthquake engineering research. Workshop participants from a variety of disciplines assembled to identify high-priority grand challenges that define the frontiers in basic earthquake engineering research, and to describe the networks of experimental facilities and cyberinfrastructure tools that could help address these challenges.Critical Infrastructure for Ocean Research and Societal Needs in 2030 (2011)
U.S. ocean research depends on a broad range of ocean infrastructure assets-the national inventory of ships and other platforms, sensors and samplers, computational and data systems, supporting facilities, and trained personnel. In order to ensure that essential infrastructure is available for both fundamental research and issues of social importance in 2030, a coordinated national plan for making future strategic investments is necessary. A growing suite of infrastructure will be needed to address urgent societal issues in coming years, such as climate change, offshore energy production, tsunami detection, and sustainable fisheries. This report identifies major ocean science questions anticipated to be significant in 2030, defines the categories of infrastructure needed to support such research over the next two decades, identifies criteria that could help prioritize infrastructure development or replacement, and suggests ways to maximize investments in ocean infrastructure.
National Earthquake Resilience: Research, Implementation, and Outreach (2011)
The United States will be subject to damaging earthquakes in the future, and some earthquakes will occur in highly populated and vulnerable areas with major effects on the nation as a whole. Efforts to reduce such effects are needed to limit the loss of life, damage to buildings, and economic cost of a major earthquake. This report presents a 20-year roadmap for earthquake hazard and risk reduction, assessing the activities, and their costs, that would be required for the nation to achieve earthquake resilience. The report identifies 18 specific task elements required to improve national earthquake resilience, and estimates the annual cost of implementing the roadmap to earthquake resilience at $306.5 million per year for the first five years.
Assessment of Intraseasonal to Interannual Climate Prediction and Predictability (2010)
Accurate forecasts of climate conditions over time periods of weeks to a few years-called intraseasonal to interannual timescales-can help people plan agricultural activities, mitigate drought, and manage energy resources. However, current forecast systems have limited ability on these timescales because models for such climate forecasts must take into account complex interactions among the ocean, atmosphere, and land surface, as well as processes that can be difficult to represent realistically. To improve the quality of intraseasonal to interannual forecasts, this report recommends the continued development of tools used in forecasting, and sets specific research goals for improving understanding of sources of predictability. In addition, the report also suggests best practices to improve methods of making and disseminating forecasts to make the information more accessible to decision-makers and researchers.
Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment (2010)
The implications of climate change for the environment and society depend on the rate and magnitude of climate change, but also on changes in technology, economics, lifestyles, and policy that will affect the capacity both for limiting and adapting to climate change. This book reviews the state of science for considering socioeconomic changes over long time frames and clarifies definitions and concepts to facilitate communication across research communities. The book also explores driving forces and key uncertainties that will affect impacts, adaptation, vulnerability and mitigation in the future. Furthermore, it considers research needs and the elements of a strategy for describing socioeconomic and environmental futures for climate change research and assessment.
Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth's Surface (2010)
During geologic spans of time, Earth's shifting tectonic plates, atmosphere, freezing water, thawing ice, flowing rivers, and evolving life have shaped Earth's surface features. The resulting hills, mountains, valleys, and plains shelter ecosystems that interact with all life and provide a record of Earth surface processes that extend back through Earth's history. Despite rapidly growing scientific knowledge of Earth surface interactions, and the increasing availability of new monitoring technologies, there is still little understanding of how these processes generate and degrade landscapes. This book identifies nine grand challenges in this emerging field of study and proposes four high-priority research initiatives.
Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: Third ReportWhen Weather Matters: Science and Service to Meet Critical Societal Needs
The public-private partnership to develop vehicles that require less petroleum-based fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases should continue to include fuel cells and other hydrogen technologies in its research and development portfolio. The third volume in the FreedomCAR series states that, although the partnership's recent shift of focus toward technologies that could be ready for use in the nearer term--such as advanced combustion engines and plug-in electric vehicles--is warranted, R&D on hydrogen and fuel cells is also needed given the high costs and challenges that many of the technologies must overcome before widespread use.
The past 15 years have seen marked progress in observing, understanding, and predicting weather. At the same time, the United States has failed to match or surpass progress in operational numerical weather prediction achieved by other nations and failed to realize its prediction potential; as a result, the nation is not mitigating weather impacts to the extent possible. This book represents a sense of the weather community as guided by the discussions of a Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate community workshop held in summer 2009. The book addresses issues including observations, global non-hydrostatic coupled modeling, data assimilation, probabilistic forecasting, and quantitative precipitation and hydrologic forecasting. The book also identifies three important, emerging issues--predictions of very high impact weather, urban meteorology, and renewable energy development--not recognized or emphasized in previous studies. Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report
The United States is currently the only country with an active, government-sponsored effort to detect and track potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs). Congress directed NASA to ask the National Research Council to review NASA's NEOs programs. This interim report addresses some of the issues associated with the survey and detection of NEOs. The final report will contain findings and recommendations for survey and detection, characterization, and mitigation of near-Earth objects based on an integrated assessment of the problem.Catalysis for Energy Fundamental Science and Long-Term Impacts of the US Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Catalysis Science Program
Catalysis, the process by which a substance (a catalyst) increases the rate of a chemical reaction, is essential to the ability to control chemical reactions, including those involved in energy transformations. Catalysis is therefore integral to current and future energy solutions, for example, developing environmentally benign energy sources such as biomass and solar energy, and developing efficient energy systems such as fuel cells. This report presents an in-depth analysis of the investment in catalysis basic research by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences Catalysis Science Program. On the basis of the information that was evaluated, the report concludes that the program has invested well in catalysis basic research. The program's success can be attributed to key management decisions over the past eight years that have led to a current funding distribution that advances catalysis science in general and keeps the development of energy-related technologies as a long-term goal. The program has maintained support for many well-established and world-renowned leaders in catalysis and, at the same time, has brought in many new researchers. The DOE Catalysis Science Initiative has been a particularly effective mechanism for bringing to the program new funds, new researchers, and innovative research topics -- especially in heterogeneous catalysis. However, there are variations in the quality and relevance of the research in the program's portfolio, which are discussed in detail in the report.Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface Book
Chemical, physical, biotic, and human processes constantly reshape Earth’s surface from particles to continents, over timescales from nanoseconds to millions of years. These processes form a complex network of interactions and feedbacks, but these interplays are not well understood, and challenging questions face science and society: How did Earth surface processes interact to create the landscapes of today? How will changing processes shape Earth’s surface in coming years? This report identifies nine grand challenges in the emerging science of Earth surface processes, and proposes four high-priority research initiatives to reach a new understanding of the processes that build the planet’s dynamic surface and underpin its habitability.Microbial Evolution and Co-Adaptation: A Tribute to the Life and Scientific Legacies of Joshua Lederberg
Dr. Joshua Lederberg - scientist, Nobel laureate, visionary thinker, and friend of the Forum on Microbial Threats - died on February 2, 2008. His death marked the departure of a central figure of modern science. It was in his honor that the Institute of Medicine''''s Forum on Microbial Threats convened a public workshop on May 20-21, 2008, to examine Dr. Lederberg's scientific and policy contributions to the marketplace of ideas in the life sciences, medicine, and public policy. This workshop summary demonstrates the extent to which conceptual and technological developments have, within a few short years, advanced our collective understanding of the microbiome, microbial genetics, microbial communities, and microbe host environment interactions.
Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop (2009)
What research and technology needs, trends, and barriers might affect oceanography in 2025? Scientists, engineers, and technologists participated in a January 2009 workshop, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, to include the perspective of the research community for U.S. Navy and Marine strategies for the 2025 timeframe. Physical processes of the ocean, including drivers of temperature, salinity, and currents, were emphasized. Specific areas of interest included submesoscale processes, air-sea interactions, basic and applied research, instrumentation and vehicles, ocean infrastructure, and education. This report is a diverse collection of individually authored white papers that focus on future needs in physical oceanography and related fields from observational, modeling, technological, and societal viewpoints.
Partnerships for Emerging Research Institutions: Report of a Workshop (2009)
Constituting one third of all U.S. institutions of higher education, emerging research institutions (ERIs) are crucial to sustaining the nation's technological competitiveness through innovation and workforce development. Many, however, are not fully engaged in sustained sponsored research. This book summarizes the discussions at a workshop that examined the barriers ERIs face in building more robust research enterprises and approaches for overcoming those barriers. The book includes a description of federal programs that focus on capacity building and institutional collaborations.
Scientific Value of Arctic Sea Ice Imagery Derived Products (2009)
During the 1990s, environmental scientists and members of the intelligence community collaborated to consider potential uses of classified assets and data to advance the understanding of environmental change. This program collected classified overhead imagery at six sites around the Arctic basin. Hundreds of unclassified products derived from those images have been produced but not yet released to the public. The National Research Council has reviewed the derived products, and reports that they show detailed processes that are important for studying effects of climate change on sea ice and habitat--data that are not available elsewhere. The report recommends that the products be released as soon as possible to the scientific research community.
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Research at NIOSH (2008)
The agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors are the cornerstone of industries that produce food, fiber, and biofuel. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts research in order to improve worker safety and health in these sectors. This National Research Council report reviews the NIOSH Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Program to evaluate the 1) relevance of its work to improvements in occupational safety and health and 2) the impact of research in reducing workplace illnesses and injuries. The assessment reveals that the program has made meaningful contributions to improving worker safety and health in these fields. To enhance the relevance and impact of its work and fulfill its mission, the NIOSH Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Program should provide national leadership, coordination of research, and activities to transfer findings, technologies, and information into practice. The program will also benefit from establishing strategic goals and implementing a comprehensive surveillance system in order to better identify and track worker populations at risk.
Earth Observations from Space: The First 50 Years of Scientific Achievements (2008)
Over the past 50 years, thousands of satellites have been sent into space on missions to collect data about the Earth. Today, the ability to forecast weather, climate, and natural hazards depends critically on these satellite-based observations. At the request of NASA, the National Research Council convened a committee to examine the scientific advances that have resulted from space-based observations. This report describes how the ability to view the entire globe at once, uniquely available from satellite observations, has revolutionized Earth studies and ushered in a new era of multidisciplinary Earth sciences. In particular, the ability to gather satellite images frequently enough to create "movies" of the changing planet is improving the understanding of Earth's dynamic processes and helping society to manage limited resources and environmental challenges. The report concludes that continued Earth observations from space will be required to address scientific and societal challenges of the future.
Evaluating Research Efficiency in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2008)
This book from the National Research Council recommends changes in how the federal government evaluates the efficiency of research at EPA and other agencies. Assessing efficiency should be considered only one part of gauging a program's quality, relevance, and effectiveness. The efficiency of research processes and that of investments should be evaluated using different approaches. The committee recommends that the efficiency of EPA''s research programs be evaluated according to the same standards used at other agencies. To ensure this, OMB should train and oversee its budget examiners so that the PART questionnaire is implemented consistently and equitably across agencies.
Letter Report to the Florida Department of Citrus on the Review of Research Proposals on Citrus Greening (2008)
Citrus Greening has emerged as a major threat to citrus production in Florida. The disease, which is spread by an insect, can infect and kill trees within a few years; currently, there is no cure. To address this devastating disease, the Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council and the Florida Department of Citrus together established a research grants program that supports innovative research leading to solutions for Citrus Greening and other citrus diseases. At the request of those organizations, the National Research Council convened an independent committee to review the 205 proposals submitted to the program in 2008. The committee's report recommends 83 proposals for funding based on evaluations of their relevance, scientific quality, and demonstrated capacity.
Preliminary Review of the Draft Science, Education, and Design Strategy for the Water and Environmental Research Systems (WATERS) Network (2008)
One of the most critical issues facing the United States today is the proper management of our water resources. Water availability and quality are changing due to increasing population, urbanization, and land use and climate change. Despite the fact that overall water use in the U.S. has remained relatively constant since about 1980, shortages in water supply have been increasing in frequency in many parts of the country, and water quality is also declining in some areas. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has proposed the Water and Environmental Research Systems (WATERS) Network as one possible initiative whereby NSF could provide the advances in the basic science needed to respond effectively to the challenge of managing water resources. In its interim report, Preliminary Review of the Draft Science, Education, and Design Strategy for the WATER and Environmental Research Systems Network, the committee comments on the WATERS draft design strategy and provides advice in several key categories related to the WATERS plan: science questions; observatory design; sensors; cyberinfrastructure; education and outreach; and governance and management.
Review of Federal Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research (2008)
This new book from the National Research Council finds serious weaknesses in the government's plan for research on the potential health and environmental risks posed by nanomaterials, which are increasingly being used in consumer goods and industry. An effective national plan for identifying and managing potential risks is essential to the successful development and public acceptance of nanotechnology-enabled products. The book recommends a robust national strategic plan for addressing nanotechnology-related Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) risks, which will need to focus on promoting research that can assist all stakeholders, including federal agencies, in planning, controlling, and optimizing the use of engineered nanomaterials while minimizing EHS effects of concern to society. Such a plan will ensure the timely development of engineered nanoscale materials that will bring about great improvements in the nation's health, its environmental quality, its economy, and its security.
Science and Technology for America''s Progress: Ensuring the Best Presidential Appointments in the New Administration (2008)
This report emphasizes the importance of research in solving many of our national challenges, including economic ones. The report, sent to John McCain and Barack Obama with guidance for whomever is elected president in November, provides suggestions on filling key science appointments after the election. Issued by the independent and nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, the report lists approximately eighty high-level science and technology appointees who will be crucial in advising the new president on issues that range from energy to health care to economic growth. It also urges members of the scientific community to serve in these positions, and suggests ways to make it more attractive for well-qualified people to do so.
Severe Space Weather Events Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts Workshop Report (2008)
The adverse effects of extreme space weather on modern technology--power grid outages, high-frequency communication blackouts, spacecraft anomalies--are well known and well documented, and the physical processes underlying space weather are also generally well understood. Less well documented and understood, however, are the potential economic and societal impacts of the disruption of critical technological systems by severe space weather. As a first step toward determining the socioeconomic impacts of extreme space weather events and addressing the questions of space weather risk assessment and management, a public workshop was held in May 2008. The workshop concluded with a discussion of un- or underexplored topics that would yield the greatest benefits in space weather risk management.
Transitioning to Sustainability Through Research and Development on Ecosystem Services and Biofuels, Workshop Summary (2008)
The National Research Councils Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability hosted Transitioning to Sustainability through Research and Development on Ecosystem Services and Biofuels: The National Academies First Federal Sustainability Research and Development Forum on October 17-18, 2007. The forum discussed sustainability research and development activities related to ecosystem services and biofuels. The objective of the forum was to identify research gaps and opportunities for collaboration among federal agencies to meet the challenges to sustainability posed by the need to maintain critical ecosystem services, to support the development of alternatives to conventional fossil fuels, and to manage oceans and coastal areas. The forum focused primarily on federal activities, but included the participation of representatives from the private sector, universities, and nongovernmental organizations. This book is a summary of the discussions from the forum.
A Review of the Final Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy (2007)
Ocean research offers countless benefits, from improving fisheries management to discovering new drugs to enabling early detection of tsunamis and hurricanes. At the request of the Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (JSOST), the National Research Council convened a committee to review the draft and final versions of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy described in Charting the Course for Ocean Science in the United States: Research Priorities for the Next Decade, which represents the first coordinated national ocean research planning effort involving all federal agencies that support ocean science. This plan presents an ambitious vision for ocean research that will be of great benefit to the ocean sciences community and the nation and the report concludes that changes made to the draft document have significantly strengthened the plan overall. However, some aspects of the plan could benefit from further development or modification. The report recommends that JSOST employ a variety of outreach mechanisms to continue to engage nonfederal partners in ocean research planning efforts, such as establishing external committees to provide scientific and technical advice and to review progress on implementation of the research plan.
Assessment of the NASA Applied Sciences Program (2007)
Remote sensing data and models from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are the basis for a wide spectrum of scientific research endeavors and are key inputs to many public and private services. The NASA Applied Sciences Program (ASP) and its precursors have been tasked with ensuring the extension of NASA Earth observation data and associated research into practical applications for society through external partnerships. With approximately five years having elapsed under the current ASP structure, and a growing government-wide emphasis on societal benefits in its Earth observing programs, NASA and the ASP leadership asked the National Research Council to assess ASP's approach in extending NASA research results to practical, societal applications. The report recommends that ASP partnerships focus not only federal agencies but also on direct engagement of the broader community of users. The report also recommends that ASP enhance communication and feedback mechanisms with its partners, with the end users and beneficiaries of NASA data and research, and with the NASA organization.
CLEANER and NSF's Environmental Observatories (2007)
Degradation of the nation's water resources threatens the health of humans and the functioning of natural ecosystems. To help better understand the causes of these adverse impacts and how they might be more effectively mitigated, especially in urban and human-stressed aquatic systems, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has proposed the establishment of a Collaborative Large-scale Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research (CLEANER). This program would provide a platform for near-real-time and conventional data collection and analysis; improve understanding and prediction of processes controlling large-scale environmental and hydrologic systems; help explain human-induced impacts on the environment; and help identify more effective adaptive management approaches to mitigate adverse impacts of human activities on water and land resources. At NSF's request, the National Academies undertook a review this proposed program. The resultant report recommends that NSF proceed with its planning, implementation, and intra- and interagency coordination activities for the program, as a successful environmental observatory network could transform the environmental engineering profession and increase its already considerable contributions to society.
Environmental Data Management at NOAA: Archiving, Stewardship, and Access (2007)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collects, manages, and disseminates a wide range of climate, weather, ecosystem and other environmental data that are used by scientists, engineers, resource managers, policy makers, and others in the United States and around the world. The increasing volume and diversity of NOAA's data holdings - which include everything from satellite images of clouds to the stomach contents of fish - and a large number of users present NOAA with substantial data management challenges. NOAA asked the National Research Council to help identify the observations, model output, and other environmental information that must be preserved in perpetuity and made readily accessible, as opposed to data with more limited storage lifetime and accessibility requirements. This report offers nine general principles for effective environmental data management, along with a number of more specific guidelines and examples that explain and illustrate how these principles could be applied at NOAA.
Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments- Environmental and Scientific Stewardship (2007)
Antarctica is renowned for its extreme cold; yet surprisingly, radar measurements have revealed a vast network of lakes, rivers, and streams several kilometers beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Sealed from Earth's atmosphere for millions of years, they may provide vital information about microbial evolution, the past climate of the Antarctic, and the formation of ice sheets, among other things. The next stage of exploration requires direct sampling of these aquatic systems. However, if sampling is not done cautiously, the environmental integrity and scientific value of these environments could be compromised. At the request of the National Science Foundation, this National Research Council assesses what is needed to responsibly explore subglacial lakes. The report concludes that it is time for research on subglacial lakes to begin, and this research should be guided by internationally agreed upon protocols. The report suggests an initial protocol, which includes full characterization of the lakes by remote sensing, and minimum standards for biological and other types of contamination.
Models in Environmental Regulatory Decision Making (2007)
Many regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, are based on the results of computer models. Models help the EPA explain environmental phenomena in settings where direct observations are limited or unavailable, and anticipate the effects of agency policies on the environment, human health and the economy. Given the critical role played by models, the EPA asked the National Research Council to assess scientific issues related to the agency''s selection and use of models in its decisions. The report recommends a series of guidelines and principles for improving agency models and decision-making processes. The centerpiece of the report''s recommended vision is a life-cycle approach to model evaluation which includes peer review, corroboration of results, and other activities. This will enhance the agency''s ability to respond to requirements from a 2001 law on information quality and improve policy development and implementation.
Prospective Evaluation of Applied Energy Research and Development at DOE: Phase Two (2007)
Over the past several years, Federal agencies, largely at the direction of Congress, have expanded efforts to measure the performance of their activities. Through the Government Performance and Results Act, GRPA, and other mandates, the agencies have developed indicators of program performance. At the request of Congress, the NRC has undertaken a series of studies using quantitative indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of applied energy research and development at DOE. This is the third report in the series and presents the results of the application of benefits evaluation methodology developed in the second study to six research and development programs within DOE.
Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects (2007)
Kazakhstan has an ambitious program to increase its technological competitiveness in the global market place during the next few years, but achieving success will depend in large measure on the effectiveness of upgraded science and technology capabilities. This report identifies important opportunities and limitations in the education system, research and development institutions, production companies, and service organizations to help governmental organizations in Kazakhstan with strong interests in science and technology chart the future course of the country.
Toxicity Testing in the Twenty-first Century: A Vision and a Strategy (2007)
Advances in molecular biology and toxicology are paving the way for major improvements in the evaluation of the hazards posed by the large number of chemicals found at low levels in the environment. The National Research Council was asked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the state of the science and create a far-reaching vision for the future of toxicity testing. The report finds that developing, improving, and validating new laboratory tools based on recent scientific advances could significantly improve our ability to understand the hazards and risks posed by chemicals. This new knowledge would lead to much more informed environmental regulations and dramatically reduce the need for animal testing because the new tests would be based on human cells and cell components.
Linking Knowledge with Action for Sustainable Development: The Role of Program Management-Summary of a Workshop (2006)
This report summarizes a workshop organized by the National Academies Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability. The workshop brought together a select group of program managers from the public and private sectors to discuss specific cases of linking knowledge to action in a diverse set of integrated observation, assessment, and decision support systems. Workshop discussions explored a wide variety of experiments in harnessing science and technology to goals of promoting development and conserving the environment. Participants reflected on the most significant challenges that they have faced when trying to implement their programs and the strategies that they have used to address them successfully. The report summarizes discussions at the workshop, including common themes about the process of linking knowledge with actions for sustainable development that emerged across a wide range of cases, sectors, and regions.
Partnerships for Reducing Landslide Risk: Assessment of the National Landslide Hazards Mitigation Strategy (2004)
This NRC report commends the USGS for creating a national approach based on partnerships with federal, state, local, and non-governmental entities, and finds that the plan components are the essential elements of a national strategy. The report recommends that the plan should promote the use of risk analysis techniques, and should play a vital role in evaluating methods, setting standards, and advancing procedures and guidelines for landslide hazard maps and assessments. The NRC panel suggests that substantially increased funding will be required to implement a national landslide mitigation program, and that as part of a 10-year program the funding mix should transition from research and guideline development to partnership-based implementation of loss reduction measures.
Urbanization, Energy, and Air Pollution in China (2004)
In October 2003, a group of experts met in Beijing under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering, and National Academy of Engineering (NAE)/National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies to continue a dialogue and eventually chart a rational course of energy use in China. This collection of papers is intended to introduce the reader to the complicated problems of urban air pollution and energy choices in China.
Water and Sustainable Development: Opportunities for the Chemical Sciences - A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable (2004)
The goal is, by the year 2015, to halve the proportion of people unable to reach or afford safe drinking water and the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation. Meeting this challenge will require the talents of chemists and chemical engineers, in addition to economists, city planners, and engineers in other fields.
Ensuring Environmental Health in Postindustrial Cities (2003)
This workshop is an opportunity for interested parties to discuss these local concerns in the broader environmental health context, and to help create partnerships to address these concerns as they currently exist and will likely emerge in the coming years. This meeting seeks to stimulate dialog about these issues among local business leaders, architects, urban planners, engineers, public health scientists, environmental scientists, health care providers, social scientists, clergy, educators, and the general public.
The Drama of the Commons (2002)
The tragedy of the commons is a central concept in human ecology and the study of the environment. It has had tremendous value for stimulating research, but it only describes the reality of human-environment interactions in special situations. Research over the past thirty years has helped clarify how human motivations, rules governing access to resources, the structure of social organizations, and the resource systems themselves interact to determine whether or not the many dramas of the commons end happily. In this book, leaders in the field review the evidence from several disciplines and many lines of research and present a state-of-the-art assessment. They summarize lessons learned and identify the major challenges facing any system of governance for resource management. They also highlight the major challenges for the next decade: making knowledge development more systematic; understanding institutions dynamically; considering a broader range of resources (such as global and technological commons); and taking into account the effects of social and historical context.
Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences (2001)
Scientists have long sought to unravel the fundamental mysteries of the land, life, water, and air that surround us. But as the consequences of humanity''''s impact on the planet become increasingly evident, governments are realizing the critical importance of understanding these environmental systems -- and investing billions of dollars in research to do so. To identify high-priority environmental science projects, Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences explores the most important areas of research for the next generation. The book's goal is not to list the world's biggest environmental problems. Rather it is to determine areas of opportunity that -- with a concerted investment -- could yield significant new findings. Nominations for environmental science's "grand" challenges were solicited from thousands of scientists worldwide. Based on their responses, eight major areas of focus were identified -- areas that offer the potential for a major scientific breakthrough of practical importance to humankind, and that are feasible if given major new funding.