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Global Environmental Change: Understanding the Human Dimensions
and the impacts of environmental changes on humans at the local, regional, and national levels. Further applications of existing approaches can continue to yield useful insights.
At the same time, the global change research agenda poses challenges for the understanding of human behavior and social institutions that require extraordinary efforts to push beyond existing disciplinary and theoretical categories. To broaden and deepen our understanding of the human dimensions of global change, research must transcend the boundaries of existing disciplines and research traditions. To illustrate, research dealing with individual or collective choice, or social conflict about how to respond to global change, lends itself to collaborative efforts on the part of anthropologists, economists, political scientists, psychologists, and sociologists. Researchers will need to develop concepts linking human actions to their cumulative and long-term consequences, procedures to relate local decisions to outcomes on regional and global scales, and methods to assess the interactions among changes in human population, technology, economic forces, social organization, and policy.
To realize the full potential of the research community to contribute to our understanding of global change, the committee concludes that research should proceed along two tracks simultaneously. As a result, we have separate recommendations to offer regarding programs of investigator-initiated research and programs of targeted or focused research on the human dimensions of global change.
Recommendation 1 The National Science Foundation should increase substantially its support for investigator-initiated or unsolicited research on the human dimensions of global change. This program should include a category of small grants subject to a simplified review procedure.
We applaud the recent initiative of the National Science Foundation in setting up a special competition for research proposals dealing with the human dimensions of global change. In our view, this program of investigator-initiated research should be established on a long-term basis, structured to include the full range of social and behavioral sciences, and expanded substantially in terms of funding. It should be open to scientists located at universities and other research centers. The program should accept proposals approaching global change issues in terms of well-established research traditions as well as newer and more innovative methodologies.