pices of the International Council of Scientific Unions and the International Social Science Council, has brought the international research community together in two major international conferences148 and now has active core projects on land use and land cover change, industrial transformation, environmental security, and institutions. The IHDP currently provides a framework for collaboration among social scientists and coordination of national human dimensions programs. The IPCC also provides an important forum for the interchange of ideas concerning the human causes, impacts, and responses to climate change. Recently, regional networks and organizations, such as the Asia Pacific Network, the Inter American Institute, the European Community, and the System for Analysis, Research, and Training (START) are developing human dimensions research programs.
Observation, that is, the collection of data, relies on sources ranging from remote sensing platforms on satellites to social surveys. The quality of social data that serve global change research has been improved by applying cognitive laboratory techniques to the way survey questions are asked and using multilevel models and datasets to incorporate community, household, and individual factors into the same analyses. Longitudinal datasets collected by the U.S. government, such as the Residential Energy Consumption Survey, the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, the Consumer Expenditure Survey, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the National Survey of Families and Households, and others, have permitted the use of more complex statistical models to understand underlying causal processes. These techniques have been further developed through privately conducted government-funded surveys, such as the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the General Social Survey. New multicountry survey studies of environmental beliefs, attitudes, and consumer behavior will benefit from these advances.
Systems for linking datasets and increasing their availability provide opportunities for major advances in human dimensions research. The past 10 years have seen the establishment or linkage of several international databases of use in studying the human dimensions of global change. For example, a 1996 report149 on the global environment provides an accessible compilation of international environmental trends at the country level from disparate sources, including various United Nations agencies and the World Bank. It is becoming the norm in the human dimensions community that data collected with federal funds should be placed in the public domain. The key issue now is implementation. The NASA-supported Social and Economic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) is charged with making social, economic, and Earth science data available to the entire research and policy community. SEDAC also hosts a World Data Center—A, covering human interactions with the environment, and a data system for