participants were asked to focus largely on: activities exploring interactions between human and environmental systems in urban settings, initiatives designed to mitigate the adverse consequences of these interactions, and evaluations of the knowledge generated throughout this process.
The workshop was designed to allow participants to share information about the activities and planning efforts of federal agencies, along with related initiatives by universities, the private sector, nongovernmental groups, state and local agencies, and international organizations (see Appendix A). Information on the workshop, including archived presentations, can be found at the following website: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/sustainability/urban2009/index.htm.
Participants were encouraged to explore how urban sustainability can move beyond analyses devoted to single disciplines and sectors to systems-level thinking and effective interagency cooperation. To do this, participants examined areas of potential coordination among different R&D programs, with special consideration given to how the efforts of federal agencies can best complement and leverage the efforts of other key stakeholders. This document offers a broad contextual summary of workshop presentations and discussions for distribution to federal agencies, regional organizations, academic institutions, think tanks and other groups engaged in urban research.
The planning committee developed an agenda to address topical concerns that cut across the concerns of individual institutions. These topics were intended to be timely and reflect the interests of a variety of stakeholders. Panelists were encouraged to share their perspectives on a given topic. However, each panel was designed to raise critical issues and provoke discussion that took advantage of the broad experience of the participants.
Many participants remarked that there are promising approaches to working beyond the traditional research silos and institutional barriers, but we still have far to go. Many also stated that we need to accelerate our progress in transcending stovepipes and extending evidence-based knowledge to help urban areas develop more sustainably.
Federal agencies are increasingly collaborating with each other, as well as with regional and state agencies, to address urban challenges. The planning committee hoped the workshop would serve as a platform for fostering even greater collaboration among all parties. Indeed the workshop was designed to provide much-needed space for institutions to explore opportunities for more integrated research on urban systems. Participants at the workshop were particularly eager to examine how the recently established federal Office of Urban Affairs could help support urban systems R&D. This workshop summary identifies some of the critical research gaps and necessary analytical tools that could effectively support decision making.
As discussions since the Brundtland Commission report (WCED, 1987) have shown, it has been much easier to define sustainability as an intellectual concept (despite its vagueness) than as an operational concept (urban sustainability at the local level may differ substantially from urban sustainability at the national and international levels—as many of the discussions at the workshop indicated). These discussions, not surprisingly, have involved tradeoffs as much as idealism and have recognized that perceptions of sustainability are infused with values and expectations that vary from one society and culture to another—and even among different economic and social groups within a