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Upcoming Events

View a list of Sustainability-related meetings at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Recent Events

The Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS)
June 13, 2017, Washington, DC


Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability

June 12, 2017, Washington, DC


Sustainability at the National Academies

May 31, 2017, Washington, DC


Meeting 4: Housing, Health, and Homelessness: Evaluating the Evidence

January 26-27, 2017, Washington, DC


Reports and Meeting Summaries


Sustainability from Idea to Action

Transitioning Toward Sustainability: Advancing the Scientific Foundation: Proceedings of a WorkshopTransitioning Toward Sustainability: Advancing the Scientific Foundation: Proceedings of a Workshop (2016)
The STS program, in collaboration with the Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate (BASC), organized a meeting of leading scientists in January 2016 to discuss progress in sustainability science during the last 15 years, potential opportunities for advancing the research and use of scientific knowledge to support a transition toward sustainability, and challenges specifically related to establishing metrics/indicators and observations to support sustainability research and practice.

Integrating Landscape Approaches and Multi-Resource Analysis into Natural Resource Management: Summary of a Workshop
Integrating Landscape Approaches and Multi-Resource Analysis into Natural Resource Management: Summary of a Workshop (2016)
The responsible management of natural resources for present-day needs and future generations requires integrated approaches that are placed-based, embrace systems thinking, and incorporate the social, economic, and environmental considerations of sustainability. In June 2015, the STS program convened a workshop on using landscape-based approaches and multi-resource analysis to better inform federal decision making for the sustainable management of natural resources.

Measuring Progress Toward Sustainability: Social and Economic Indicators and Metrics for Urban Sustainability (2016)
As the second event of the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability's 2015-2016 initiative, the November 2015 meeting featured discussions on social and economic indicators and metrics in the context of urban sustainability. Panelists examined examples of select social and economic indicators and metrics that incorporated various disciplines, particularly those being used to inform policy and action related to sustainability practice and research.

Measuring Progress Toward Sustainability: Indicators and Metrics for Climate Change and Infrastructure Vulnerability (2016)
As the first event of the Roundtable's 2015-2016 initiative, the June 2015 meeting hosted a session that provided an overview of the state of the science on sustainability indicators and metrics in the context of climate change and infrastructure vulnerability. The purpose of the session was to assess what indicators and metrics have been found to be the most useful for promoting sustainability as well as identify knowledge gaps related to developing indicators that integrate across the ecological, social, and economic sciences.

Sustainability Concepts in Decision-Making: Tools and Approaches for the US Environmental Protection Agency (2014)
The Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST), in collaboration with the STS Program, released a consensus report that examines scientific tools and approaches for incorporating sustainability concepts into assessments used to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) decision making. Using specific case studies, this report considers the application of analytic and scientific tools, methods, and approaches presented in the 2011 NRC report Sustainability and the U.S. EPA

Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages (2013) 
In June 2013, an expert committee under the STS program released a landmark consensus report that provides a decision framework for policymakers to examine the consequences and operational benefits of sustainability-oriented programs. The report also recommends priority areas for interagency cooperation on specific sustainability challenges; identifies impediments to interdisciplinary, cross-media federal programs; and highlights scientific research gaps as they relate to these interdisciplinary, cross-media approaches to sustainability. 

NSF Report CoverPartnerships, Science, and Innovation for Sustainability Solutions: A Symposium (2012)
The STS program organized a three day public symposium at the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to better define the issues and forge new collaborations. The symposium featured invited presentations and discussions to share the NSF's and other Federal agencies' investments and institutional structures regarding sustainability, including the most significant outcomes of investments in research.

Book CoverSustainable Considerations for Procurement Tools and Capabilities: Summary of a Workshop (2012)
This report recaps a December 2011 workshop convened by the STS program in collaboration with Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) on behalf of the General Services Administration on how better to foster sustainability considerations into procurement tools and capabilities across the public and private sectors. The workshop assessed the current landscape of green purchasing tools, identified opportunities and emerging requirements for enhanced and/or new tools, and identified potential barriers to progress.

Sustainability and the U.S. EPA (2011)
This report presents a framework for incorporating sustainability into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's principles and decision making. The framework, which was requested by EPA, is intended to help the agency better assess the social, environmental, and economic impacts of various options as it makes decisions. The recommended sustainability approach both incorporates and goes beyond an approach based on assessing and managing the risks posed by pollutants that has largely shaped environmental policy since the 1980s.

Book CoverCertifiably Sustainable?: The Role of Third-Party Certification Systems: Report of a Workshop (2010)
In January 2009, the STS program held a workshop to illuminate the decision making process of those who purchase and produce certified goods and services. It was also intended to help clarify the scope and limitations of the scientific knowledge that might contribute to the economic success of certified products. This volume summaries the presentations and discussions from the workshop.

Book CoverEnhancing the Effectiveness of Sustainability Partnerships: Summary of a Workshop (2009)
A symposium held in June 2008 attempted to advance the dialogue on partnerships for sustainability in order to catalyze existing knowledge and inform future efforts. The symposium focused on the challenges that the partnerships have addressed, including: involvement of several sectors, action at varying scales, from local to global, a combination of public and private financing, and a complex set of science questions. The experience of eleven partnerships shaped the analysis and discussion. 


 Book CoverLinking Knowledge with Action for Sustainable Development: The Role of Program Management-Summary of a Workshop (2006)
The workshop hosted by the STS program 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. 

Book CoverOur Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability (1999)
This report documents large-scale historical currents of social and environmental change and reviews methods for “what if” analysis of possible future development pathways and their implications for sustainability. The report also identifies the greatest threats to sustainability – in areas such as human settlements, agriculture, industry, and energy – and explores the most promising opportunities for circumventing or mitigating these threats. It goes on to discuss what indicates of change, from children’s birth-weights to atmosphere chemistry, will be most useful in monitoring a transition to sustainability. 


Urban Sustainability

Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities for the United StatesPathways to Urban Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities for the United States (2016)
An expert committee under the STS program is conducting a study by using examples from metropolitan regions to understand how sustainability principles could contribute to the development, growth and regeneration of major metropolitan regions in the U.S. The study will provide a paradigm that incorporates the many systems that exist in metropolitan regions, such as ecosystems, the urban center, manufacturing, and other relevant social, economic, and environmental systems critical in the transition to sustainable metropolitan regions.

Homelessness and Urban Sustainability: Implications of Changes to the US Health System on a Vulnerable Population (2015)
On November 12, 2014, the STS program, in collaboration with the National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on Health Equity and Health Disparities, Convened a workshop focusing on the impact of the changing U.S. health care system under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on homeless populations in urban areas.

Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Perspectives from Portland and the Pacific Northwest (2014)
In May 2013, the STS program convened a workshop to examine issues relating to sustainability and human-environment interactions in the Portland metropolitan region. Topics address included the role of land-use restrictions on development, transportation innovations, and economic and social challenges. The speakers at the workshop used examples from Portland and the greater Pacific Northwest region to explore critical questions in finding pathways to urban sustainability.  

Book CoverPathways to Urban Sustainability: A Focus on the Houston Metropolitan Region (2013)
The STS program organized a public workshop to examine issues relating to sustainability and human-environment interactions in the Houston metropolitan region held in January 2012. 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.

Book CoverPathways to Urban Sustainability: The Atlanta Metropolitan Region (2011)
The U.S. population is more than 80 percent urban. The two day workshop held on September 30 and October 1, 2010 examined how the interaction of various systems (natural and human systems; energy, water and transportations systems) affect the Atlanta, Georgia region's social, economic, and environmental conditions. This workshop summary explores the region's approach to urban sustainability with an emphasis on building an evidence-based foundation upon which policies and programs might be developed.

Book CoverPathways to Urban Sustainability: Research and Development on Urban Systems (2010)
An ad hoc planning committee under the STS program organized a one-day public workshop to discuss research gaps, needed analytical tools, and opportunities for collaboration among federal research and development programs and other relevant programs focused on challenges to urban sustainability. Participants included representatives from federal agencies, state/local agencies, academic non-governmental organizations, and key stakeholder groups such as the Conference of Mayors and the League of Cities, as well as international experts.









     
Energy-Water Nexus and Energy Sustainability

Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability (2015)
In 2013-2014, the Academies' Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability, in collaboration with the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) and the Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB), contributed to the emerging dialogue on the energy-water nexus by holding four related meetings in June 2013, December 2013, May 2014, and December 2014. This volume compiles the Meetings in Brief for the four events, highlighting the main topics discussed at each meeting.

Energy Water Need for Improved DataAddressing the Energy-Water Nexus: Need for Improved Data & Decision Support Tools (2015)
In 2013-2014, the Roundtable on Science and Technology, in collaboration with the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) and Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB), successfully contributed to the emerging dialogue on the energy-water nexus by holding four related events. As the fourth and final session of this initiative, the December 2014 meeting featured panel discussion on improved data for water use, decision-support tools, and frameworks for local and regional decision making.

Energy Water Technological Innovation Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus through Technological Innovation (2014)
As the third event of the Roundtable's 2013-2014 initiative to address the energy-water nexus, the May 2014 event featured panel discussions addressing issues related to the energy-water nexus through further technological innovation. The panels examined research needs for optimizing current technologies, addressing existing barriers and emerging technology innovations, and advancing the integrative field of the energy-water nexus to address key challenges. The meeting was held in collaboration with BEES and WSTB.

Best Practices for Risk-Informed Decision Making Regarding Contaminated Sites:  Summary of a Workshop SeriesBest Practices for Risk-Informed Decision Making Regarding Contaminated Sites: Summary of a Workshop Series (2014)
An ad hoc committee of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board (NRSB), in collaboration with the STS program, organized two public workshops in October 2013 and January 2014 on best practices for risk-informed remedy selection, closure, and post-closure control of radioactive and chemically contaminated sites that present significant difficulty for remediation to unrestricted release. This report summarizes discussions held during the two workshops.

Energy Water Power Plants CoverAddressing the Energy-Water Nexus: Power Plants and Partnerships (2014) 
As the second event of the Roundtable's 2013-2014 initiative on the energy-water nexus, the December 2013 meeting of the STS Roundtable delved deeper, focusing on energy-water nexus issues associated with power plants. Specifically, the panel addressed how changing water conditions have affected the operations of power plants and the role of research on new water-saving technologies for power plants. This event was held in collaboration with BEES and WSTB. 

Energy Water Waste Cover

Energy-Water Nexus Considerations for the Sustainable Reuse and Recycling of Waste Streams and Materials (2014)
On September 10, 2013, the STS program, in collaboration with BEES and WSTB, convened a meeting of research leaders and technical experts in private industry as well as representatives from government and academia to examine the energy-water considerations of material reuse and recycling. The meeting examined the data and research needs for assessing the energy-water linkages with the reuse and recycling of waste streams and materials, and the technologies and approaches needed to further recycling and reuse strategies.

Roundtable EW Summary CoverSustainable Energy and Materials: Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus (2013)
The first event of the STS Roundtable, held in June 2013, provided a broad overview of the energy-water nexus, including examining key data and partnership needs for addressing energy-water issues. The June 2013 meeting was developed in coordination with staff from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, who were actively involved in engaging foundations to call attention to the issue and to gain their perspective on how to move forward. The meeting was held in collaboration with BEES and WSTB.
 December 2012 RT Summary Report Cover
Developing Sustainable and Resilient Energy Systems (2013)
On December 6, 2012, the STS Roundtable, in collaboration with BEES, convened a meeting of technical experts in private industry and representatives from government and academia to discuss sustainable and resilient energy systems. Presentations explored approaches to building a sustainable and resilient energy future as well as major policy, research, and technological gaps that need to be addressed.  

Critical Materials CoverCritical Materials for Energy Sustainability and Technology: A Focus on Material Recovery (2013)
On December 5, 2012, STS and BEES convened a small group of research leaders and technical experts in private industry as well as representatives from government and academia to discuss the criticality of materials used in energy sustainability related technologies. Participants shared their perspective on successes and challenges of using different strategies in the recovery of critical materials and examined how federal agency and state efforts and interagency partnerships can complement/leverage the efforts of key stakeholders. 
 

Japan-US Workshop CoverJapan-U.S. Workshop on Sustainable Energy Futures (2012)
The STS program hosted a joint Japan-U.S. workshop on sustainable energy futures in June 2012, in conjunction with the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability, to examine energy sustainability strategies and better understand how sustainable energy futures can be achieved. The workshop included participants from federal agencies, academia, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations involved in sustainability issues in Japan and the United States. The one-day workshop examined the strategies, research and technology needed to achieve sustainable energy solutions in both countries.

Sustainable Energy and Materials CoverSustainable Energy and Materials: Assessing the Landscape (2012)
As the largest global consumer of energy and of many materials used in traditional and advanced technologies, there is an increased recognition among US federal agencies and the corporate sector of the need to identify and develop sustainable sources of energy and materials. The June 2012 meeting of the Roundtable included a session that provided an overview of the landscape of efforts underway on sustainable energy and materials, such as identifying any key policy, research, and technological gaps. 

Waste Heat CoverEnergy Sustainability: Waste Heat Recovery (2012)
The STS program, in collaboration with the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES), convened a meeting of research leaders and technical experts to discuss ways to recover waste heat and how it might contribute to energy sustainability. The purpose of the meeting was to foster a focused discussion on opportunities to increase the use of waste heat; the technical, economic, and regulatory barriers in the U.S. to expanded implementation of waste heat programs, and ways these barriers can be reduced; and the role of federal agencies in supporting these programs.

Book CoverExpanding Biofuel Production: Sustainability and the Transition to Advanced Biofuels: Summary of a Workshop
(2010) The STS program hosted a workshop in June 2009 with a focus on three states in the Upper Midwest - Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The three states supported policies to promote the development of the biofuels industry, focused on both the supple side as well as the demand side. In addition, each of theses states has strong research universities and academic researchers focused on the technology aspects of biofuels and on the economic, environment, and social impacts. 

Book CoverTransitioning to Sustainability Through Research and Development on Ecosystem Services and Biofuels, Workshop Summary (2008)
In October 2007, the STS program hosted the National Academies First Federal Sustainability Research and Development Forum. The forum discussed sustainability research and development activities related to ecosystem services and biofuels. The objective of the forum was to identify gaps and opportunities for collaboration among federal agencies to meet the challenges to sustainability posed by the need to maintain focused primarily on federal activities. 


Food Security and Sustainability

Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and SustainabilityCritical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability (2015)
An expert committee under the STS program, in collaboration with the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR), completed a report that identifies research priorities to sustainably meet expected increase in global demand for animal protein. The study committee calls for revitalization of animal science research and research infrastructure to respond to the anticipation of a sharp increase in the demand for animal products by mid-century. View a Science Unscrambled video, where Dr. Bernard Goldstein, University of Pittsburgh and chair of the report's authoring committee, explores the main themes in the report.

Food Security Cover
A Sustainability Challenge: Food Security for All (2012)
The STS program hosted two workshops in 2011 addressing the sustainability challenges associated with food security for all. The first workshop, Measuring Food Insecurity and Assessing the Sustainability of Global Food Systems, explored the availability and quality of commonly used indicators for food security and malnutrition; poverty; and natural resources and agricultural productivity. The second workshop, Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies, focused specifically on assuring the availability of adequate food supplies. This report summarizes discussions held during the two workshops.

Data Needs for Life Cycle Assessment CoverData Needs for Life-Cycle Assessment (2012)
During the November 2011 meeting of the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability, a panel discussion was held exploring data needs for life-cycle assessment (LCA) in the context of sustainability sciences. A summary of the panel was recently published highlighting several overarching themes from the panelists' presentations, such as the quality of data available to LCA practitioners, the need for open and transparent LCA processes and modeling, among others.