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August 2012

Table of Contents


We are pleased to present you with Sustainability at the National Academies, a monthly update highlighting activities related to sustainable development from throughout the National Academies. Please visit our website for additional information on these and other activities at

The Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability  provides a unique forum for sharing views, information, and analyses related to sustainability. The goal for the Roundtable is to mobilize, encourage, and use scientific knowledge and technology to help achieve sustainability goals and to support the implementation of sustainability practices. Through its activities, the Roundtable identifies new ways in which science and technology can contribute to sustainability. What follows is a brief summary of sustainability-related activities being conducted throughout the National Academies.

You are receiving this update based on your participation in ongoing or past activities of the Roundtable. If you would prefer not to receive future monthly updates or would like to be added to the recipient list, please contact Dylan Richmond at 202-334-2489 or or visit our website. 

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Report Launch: Sustainability Considerations for Procurement Tools and Capabilities
The Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) would like to invite you to the launch of an upcoming report, Sustainability Considerations for Procurement Tools and Capabilities . This report summarizes a workshop held in December 2011 on how better to foster sustainability considerations in procurement tools and capabilities across the public and private sectors. Daniel Tangherlini, Acting Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), will deliver remarks on sustainability at the GSA. The event will take place on Thursday, September 27, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the Koshland Science Museum in Washington, DC. Please e-mail to register for this event.

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Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation
Optics and photonics technologies are ubiquitous: they are responsible for the displays on smart phones and computing devices, optical fiber that carries the information in the internet, advanced precision manufacturing, enhanced defense capabilities, and a plethora of medical diagnostics tools. The opportunities arising from optics and photonics offer the potential for even greater societal impact in the next few decades, including solar power generation and new efficient lighting that could transform the nation's energy landscape and new optical capabilities that will be essential to support the continued exponential growth of the Internet. As described in this report, it is critical for the United States to take advantage of these emerging optical technologies for creating new industries and generating job growth. The report assesses the current state of optical science and engineering in the United States and abroad--including market trends, workforce needs, and the impact of photonics on the national economy. It identifies the technological opportunities that have arisen from recent advances in, and applications of, optical science and engineering. The report also calls for improved management of U.S. public and private research and development resources, emphasizing the need for public policy that encourages adoption of a portfolio approach to investing in the wide and diverse opportunities now available within photonics.

Weather Services for the Nation: Becoming Second to None
During the 1980s and 1990s, the National Weather Service undertook a major, comprehensive modernization effort that succeeded in achieving major improvements for the weather, water, and climate enterprise. Despite this success, accelerating improvements in technology and the science of meteorology and hydrology imply that continuing modernization of the National Weather Service (NWS) is required. This report uses lessons learned from the 1990's modernization process to develop guidance on how best to plan, deploy, and oversee future improvements to the National Weather Service.

Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative
No person or place is immune from dis asters or disaster-related losses. Infectious disease outbreaks, acts of terrorism, social unrest, or financial disasters in addition to natural hazards can all lead to large-scale consequences for the nation and its communities. Communities and the nation thus face difficult fiscal, social, cultural, and environmental choices about the best ways to ensure basic security and quality of life against hazards, deliberate attacks, and disasters. One way to reduce the impacts of disasters on the nation and its communities is to invest in enhancing resilience--the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from and more successfully adapt to adverse events. This report addresses the broad issue of increasing the nation's resilience to disasters. It defines "national resilience", describes the state of knowledge about resilience to hazards and disasters, and frames the main issues related to increasing resilience in the United States. It also provide goals, baseline conditions, or performance metrics for national resilience and outlines additional information, data, gaps, and/or obstacles that need to be addressed to increase the nation's resilience to disasters.
An Ecological Approach to Integrating Conservation and Highway Planning, Volume 2
This report is designed to help transportation and environmental professionals apply ecological principles early in the planning and programming process of highway capacity improvements to inform later environmental reviews and permitting. Ecological principles consider cumulative landscape, water resources, and habitat impacts of planned infrastructure actions, as well as the localized impacts. The report introduces the integrated ecological framework, a nine-step process for use in early stages of highway planning when there are greater opportunities for avoiding or minimizing potential environmental impacts and for planning future mitigation strategies.

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Trends and Opportunities in Federal Earth Science Education and Workforce Training
This study by the National Research Council organized around a workshop will summarize the legislative authority for STEM education and training granted to federal agencies with substantial programs in earth science (excluding oceanic, atmospheric, and space science); examine recent earth science education programs with a research or training component, both formal and informal, in these federal agencies; identify criteria for evaluating the success of earth science education and training programs and, using these criteria and the results of previous federal program evaluations, identify examples of successful programs in federal agencies. It will also determine what made these example programs successful (e.g., resources, themes, engagement activities, partnerships); summarize the knowledge and skills identified in recent NRC workforce reports that are needed by earth scientists in their careers; and describe ways that federal agencies can leverage their earth education and training efforts to improve their recruitment of a diverse population in both high school and college.

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Sustainable Acquisition: Fostering Sustainability Considerations into Public and Private Sector Procurement Tools and Capabilities
An ad hoc committee, under a collaboration between the STS program and Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, organized a two day public workshop in December 2011 on fostering better sustainability considerations in procurement tools and capabilities across the public and private sectors. The workshop featured invited presentations and discussions to assess the current landscape of green purchasing tools, identify opportunities and emerging requirements for enhanced and/or new tools, identify potential barriers to progress (such as cross-tool interoperability), and explore potential solutions. It also considered associated training required to realize the full benefits of these tools. A workshop summary will be released in September 2012.

Sustainability Linkages in the Federal Government
An ad hoc committee under the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) will identify the linkages among areas such as energy, water, health, agricultural production, and biodiversity that are critical to promoting and encouraging long term sustainability within the federal policy framework, recognizing that progress towards sustainability necessarily involves other levels of government, the private sector, and civil society. The premise is that achieving sustainability is a systems challenge that cannot be realized by separately optimizing pieces of the system. The study will build upon existing and emerging expertise throughout the scientific and technological communities. It will describe the nexus where domains intersect but in which existing institutions and disciplines often do not intersect.

Japan-U.S. Workshop on Sustainable Energy Futures
The STS program hosted a joint Japan-U.S. workshop on sustainable energy futures on June 26, 2012, in conjunction with the June 2012 meeting of the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability. The one-day workshop explored effective strategies and the research and technology needed to achieve sustainable energy solutions in Japan and the U.S. Workshop participants identified possible priorities for sustainable energy research and discussed future collaboration between the two countries on research and innovation in the area of sustainability. A brief, individually-authored summary of the workshop will be issued in the near future. 

Pathways to Urban Sustainability: A Focus on the Houston Metropolitan Region
The National Academies organized a public workshop to examine issues relating to sustainability and human-environment interactions in the Houston metropolitan region held in January 2012. Topics addressed included energy and air quality management, hazard mitigation, and land use considerations. The committee developed an agenda in consultation with regional stakeholders (academia, city/county governments), so that the presentations and panels reflect place-based knowledge and approaches to sustainability. The workshop featured invited presentations and group discussion, and was patterned after similar workshops held in 2009 on research and development on urban systems and in 2010 on urban sustainability in the Atlanta metropolitan region. A workshop summary will be forthcoming.

A Sustainability Challenge: Food Security for All
An ad hoc committee under the STS program organized two public workshops in 2011 addressing the sustainability challenges associated with food security for all.  Measuring Food Insecurity and Assessing the Sustainability of Global Food Systems , held on February 16-17, 2011, reviewed commonly used indicators for food security and malnutrition; poverty; and natural resources and agricultural productivity. Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies , held on May 2-4, 2011, examined a set of issues fundamental to assuring that food supplies can be increased to meet the needs of the world's growing population--now expected to grow to 9 billion by the year 2050. A summary of both workshops was published in February 2012.

Sustainability and the U.S. EPA
An ad hoc committeee under the STS program has authored a consensus report for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Office of Research and Development (ORD) to help define their efforts to incorporate sustainability concepts into agency programs. This report builds on existing sustainability efforts that ORD has conducted by strengthening the analytic and scientific basis for sustainability as it applies to human health and environmental protection within the Agency's decision-making process.

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Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants
September 6-7, 2012, Washington, DC
Sustaining Public Health Capacity in an Age of Austerity
September 10-11, 2012, Washington, DC
Ecological Risk Assessment Under FIFRA and ESA
September 13-14, 2012, Washington, DC
Worldwide Views on Biodiversity
September 15, 2012, Washington, DC
Offshore Wind Farm Worker Safety
September 19-21, 2012, Woods Hole, MA
Report Launch: Sustainability Considerations for Procurement Tools and Capabilities
September 27, 2012, Washington, DC
Assessment of Technologies for Improving Fuel Economy of Light-Duty Vehicles - Phase 2
Septembe 27-28, Washington, DC
Potential Application in the United States of International Experience in Multimodal Transportation Research Framework Development and Research Implementation
September 27-28, Irvine, CA
Dissemination Event: Sustainability Considerations for Procurement Tools and Capabilites
September 28, 2012, Washington, DC

Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon-252 Oil Spill on Ecosystem Services in the Gulf of Mexico
October 5-6, 2012
Sustainability Linkages in the Federal Government
October 11-12, 2012, Washington, DC
2012 Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium
October 29-31, 2012, Irvine, CA

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PNAS Sustainability Science, Special Features
PNAS offers a series of special feature issues that highlight emerging fields in the physical, social, and biological sciences and are edited by leaders in the field. Special Features include a cluster of Perspectives and peer-reviewed research articles. As a service to readers, Special Features are freely available online from the date of publication. 

From the August 2012 issue:

From the July 2012 issue:

To learn more about sustainability activities, both in the STS program and throughout the other boards and committees of the National Academies, please visit our webpage at:

Preparation of this update was supported by the National Academies' George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability Science

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