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Upcoming Events

Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities, Meeting 2
April 29-30, 2015
Long Beach, CA

Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS)
 
April 8, 2015
Washington, DC


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Sustainability-related meetings at The National Academies

Recent Events

Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities, Meeting 1
February 12-13, 2015
Washington, DC


Research and Development Large

Meetings

View a list of Sustainability-related meetings at The National Academies

Ongoing ACTIVITIES

View a list of Sustainability-related ongoing activities at The National Academies

Sustainability, Research & Development
  

"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
 

Publications                                                                                                      

Robust Methods for the Analysis of Images and Videos for Fisheries Stock Assessment: Summary of a Workshop (2014)
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat. As part of this charge, NMFS conducts stock assessments of the abundance and composition of fish stocks in several bodies of water. This report is the summary of a workshop convened by the National Research Council to discuss analysis techniques for images and videos for fisheries stock assessment. Experts from diverse communities shared perspective about the most efficient path toward improved automation of visual information and discussed both near-term and long-term goals that can be achieved through research and development efforts.

Opportunities to Use Remote Sensing in Understanding Permafrost and Related Ecological Characteristics: Report of a WorkshopOpportunities to Use Remote Sensing in Understanding Permafrost and Related Ecological Characteristics: Report of a Workshop (2014)
Climate change is causing the widespread thawing and degradation of permafrost, subsurface soil or rock that remains frozen for two or more consecutive years. Changes in permafrost could cause significant impacts-for example, by causing erosion that damages buildings, roads, or other infrastructure, by causing shifts in ecosystems, and by contributing large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. The National Research Council organized a workshop to explore opportunities for harnessing remote sensing technologies (both from existing sensors and those expected in the near future) to learn more about permafrost status and trends.



Best Available and Safest Technologies for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations: Options for ImplementationBest Available and Safest Technologies for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations (2013)
This report explores a range of options for improving the implementation of the U.S. Department of the Interior's congressional mandate to require the use of best available and safety technologies in offshore oil and gas operations. In the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Congress directs the Secretary of the Interior to regulate oil and gas operations in federal waters. This report, which was requested by Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), also reviews options and issues that BSEE is already considering to improve implementation of the best available and safest technologies requirement.




Landsat and Beyond: Sustaining and Enhancing the Nation's Land Imaging ProgramLandsat and Beyond: Sustaining and Enhancing the Nation's Land Imaging Program (2013)
In 1972 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ETRS), now known as Landsat 1, and on February 11, 2013 launched Landsat 8. Currently the United States has collected 40 continuous years of satellite records of land remote sensing data from satellites similar to these. Even though this data is valuable to improving many different aspects of the country such as agriculture, homeland security, and disaster mitigation; the availability of this data for planning our nation's future is at risk. This report review the needs and opportunities necessary for the development of a national space-based operational land imaging capability.


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.


Book CoverAn 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. 

Book CoverAssessment of Advanced Solid State Lighting (2013)
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 (2011)
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 Report (2010)
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.


 

When Weather Matters: Science and Service to Meet Critical Societal Needs  (2010)
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. 



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