Human Resources And Organizational Structures
The previous chapters make evident the complex conceptual and methodological problems faced by researchers studying the human dimensions of global change. Progress in this field will depend on laying a foundation for the necessary long-term research effort, that is, on how well we are able to organize human resources for the study of global change. The problems are fundamentally interdisciplinary and require an understanding of diverse perspectives and methods that transcend the traditional disciplines: research agendas must incorporate perspectives from the social and natural sciences, as well as from humanist scholars. In many cases, individuals will be required to reorient their careers to make global change a major object of study. Just as individual scholars may be required to change their research orientation to address global change issues, new arrangements are also needed in funding agencies and research institutions. This chapter considers ways to organize large-scale research efforts to incorporate the needed cross-disciplinary skills and perspectives. It addresses the institutional infrastructure for research, training programs for scholars and scientists, and the organization of specific research agendas. We believe that careful attention to these issues is critical to the success of the research program on human dimensions of global change.
We begin with two key questions: Will major research institutions here and abroad reorient to focus their resources on global change research? Can such research flow directly out of the mainstream concerns of existing academic disciplines, or does it require fundamental restructuring?
These questions offer a starting point for discussions of how human and capital resources should be allocated to yield practical and theoretical knowledge about global change. If it is possible to reorient institutions and disciplines to make global change more central to existing research agendas, then how do we invest resources to achieve such a reorientation in the most efficient and productive ways? If, however, existing institutions and disciplines seem unlikely to respond adequately to global change as an issue, then what alternative institutional structures and disciplinary loci are likely to yield the results we seek?
A sudden infusion of money in large, temporary doses rarely produces sustained, effective programs. Existing disciplines and institutions either take advantage of the new money to serve related research agendas, or come to depend on external funding and do not incorporate the new research agenda into their internal financial and intellectual accounting. There is a risk that research on global change will follow this pattern. In this situation, institutions funding research have essentially two options: (1) to recognize from the outset that their goals are short-term and hence may not make a lasting impact on disciplines and research institutions or (2) to commit significant resources to strategic planning and the development of long-term institutional resources. With respect to global change research, the most successful plan is likely to be the one that incorporates both these. options.
The "war on cancer" and other major initiatives in biomedical research offer examples of strategic decisions to build specialized multidisciplinary research resources to sustain a field of priority research. Existing disciplines and institutions should be encouraged to investigate global change, and a limited set of new institutional structures should be developed in areas in which existing resources seem inadequate. It is essential that funding for global change make a distinction between short-term investments in existing research programs and long-term investments that are designed to build new research institutions. Both are important, but the second requires sustained, long-term support—for clerical
staff, office space and equipment, travel funds, and the availability of postdoctoral fellows.
Interdisciplinary programs are almost always at a disadvantage in research institutions, particularly universities. Although they often begin with much fanfare and develop a large following among students, they rarely enjoy the institutional support given to standard academic disciplines. Individual scholars who commit time to such programs often do so to the detriment of their own careers. To promote a lasting institutional presence for a new interdisciplinary research program such as human dimensions of global change, funders should create explicit incentives to encourage an identity for the program within its larger institutional setting. In a university, a healthy program will eventually control its own faculty appointments and often key resources such as budgets and space, in order both to support new researchers and to attract the interest and resources of individuals who are already present but not yet committed to global change as a research agenda.
One viable model is to create university-wide committees on global change, endowed with critical resources but not usurping the traditional roles of departments in hiring and granting tenure and degrees. (The Committee on Population Biology at the University of Chicago, formed in the early 1970s, operated in this manner.) The loss in autonomy suffered by this arrangement is traded for a gain in access to productive researchers in a variety of natural and social science disciplines. To hold the interest of these faculty members, the committee can use its resources to give released time, visiting appointments, and fellowships; sponsor research start-ups; and hold regular colloquia.
Planners should remember that the 1990s are likely to be a highly competitive period among university faculties and research scientists. Institutions faced with widespread retirements among their senior scholars and scientists will find themselves trying to hire from a pool of younger people that is smaller than the demand for their talents. At the same time, universities in particular are experiencing serious pressure on their traditional income streams just at the moment that their expenditures on faculty salaries seem likely to rise. Under these circumstances, agencies promoting research on global change have an opportunity to encourage institutions to hire in this area. Chaired professorships, salary support, and research funding as well as more modest investments, such as underwriting special journal issues focusing on global and/or environmental change, special conferences, workshops, seminars, and lecture series are important in establishing
the field. Institutionally based funding for global change research by scholars in mid-career seems a particularly fruitful way to leverage resources. The committee recommends that potential sponsors of global change research be attentive to the problems of interdisciplinary research in most institutional settings and address some of their support to building institutional bases for research.
NATIONAL CENTERS FOR RESEARCH
Well-funded national research centers have played a major role in advancing both basic and applied research in a number of areas within the social sciences. Notable examples are centers for research on population issues, on the analysis and resolution of social conflicts, and on international studies. Centers on these topics have served to bring together groups of scientists and to promote communication among scholars that would not occur if they were operating within traditional discipline-based departments. Centers have also served to overcome some of the institutional impediments to progress in interdisciplinary fields of study discussed above.
It is our judgment that the field of the human dimensions of global change, like these other fields, requires interdisciplinary communication beyond what typically occurs in universities. Based on the experience gained from centers in those fields, the committee concludes that the human dimensions of global change is an emerging field of inquiry that is ripe for the same sort of treatment. We recommend that about five national centers for research in this area be established in the immediate future, and that these centers be truly interdisciplinary, combining the social and natural sciences. The centers should be supported by a consortium of government and private sources that will make a long-term funding commitment. Long-term survival of these centers would be enhanced by weaving them into the fabric of the institutions of which they are a part. Endowed chairs and split tenured positions between the center and appropriate academic departments would contribute to the stability and status of centers based in universities.
In establishing these centers, several models are worth considering. One is to create interdisciplinary research centers within the institutional structures of universities, such as the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. Another model is to create semiautonomous centers that are loosely affiliated with universities, such as the Scripps Oceanographic Institution. A
third model is physically separate centers operated by consortiums of universities, such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research. A fourth model is the completely independent center devoted to research on environmental issues, such as Resources for the Future. Yet another possibility would be the sorts of government-operated centers that conduct both intramural and extramural programs, like those managed by the National Institutes of Health.
If it were necessary to choose among these models, the committee judges that the best case could be made for maintaining close links between the centers and universities. This judgment is based on the observation that most of the significant advances in our understanding of human behavior have been made by investigators in university settings. A useful model is provided by demography. Since World War II, funding from public and private sources, much of it along the lines we have outlined, has allowed this field to advance rapidly and become a respected and highly interdisciplinary concentration within the social sciences. Knowledge of the causes and effects of population growth has increased substantially, and much of that knowledge has been translated into applications.
Independent centers have shown a tendency to focus their energies more on applied research and, in some cases, to become associated with one or another perspective. It is noted, however, that there are topics relating to the human dimensions of global change that are most appropriately conceived at the intersection between basic and applied research. These problems are perhaps most appropriately investigated at government-operated research centers, like the widely proposed National Institutes of the Environment, or at freestanding research think tanks, such as Resources for the Future.
Regardless of their location, centers should be established for the long term. Sponsors should therefore look for evidence that institutions seeking to establish centers are making a long-term commitment to them. The centers need to be rooted in environmental social science but also maintain a commitment to collaborative work with natural scientists.
Funding agencies have long sought to encourage research in fields with important policy implications by supporting research by graduate students, and we assume that global change research
will follow a similar path. Graduate and postdoctoral fellowships are an obvious place to target global change budgets, being especially attractive because of their relatively low cost and relatively high likelihood of inducing young people to make careers for themselves in this area. Given the special challenges of global change research, such fellowships might usefully be supplemented with travel funds that would enable young scholars and scientists to do work in distant locations they might not otherwise be able to reach. The fellowships should be available to graduate students, postdoctoral students, and mid-career scientists on a competitive basis. While fellows should be allowed considerable freedom to design their own programs, they may choose to affiliate with one of the national centers for research discussed above. The committee recommends that new programs of graduate and postdoctoral fellowships be established to support global change research. In addition to basic funding, generous grants for travel should be provided.
There are additional issues relating to training. One is that the study of global change requires communication and cooperation among scholars and scientists in many traditional academic disciplines. Such cooperation is less frequent in university settings than one would like, suggesting the need to explicitly foster opportunities for cross-disciplinary synthesis. One possible device is to arrange for annual meetings of all graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are working on different aspects of global change. Such gatherings should be long enough—no less than a week and preferably two weeks—to build a genuine sense of community and collegiality among their participants. Annual conferences would represent a lost opportunity if geologists talked only to geologists, ecologists to ecologists, economists to economists, and so on—yet this is exactly what will happen unless conference planners ensure that individuals from different disciplines plan projects requiring their active joint participation. Meetings should be designed to mix individuals from different disciplinary backgrounds to promote precisely the kinds of intellectual cross-fertilization that often do not occur in more traditional settings. Since much global change research is likely to be collective, requiring the talents and perspectives of individuals from many different disciplines, conferences should be organized to encourage group interaction of just this sort so that students become accustomed to it early in their careers. Analogous conferences for scholars and scientists already in mid-career are also desirable.
In seeking to invest wisely in support of global change research,
attention to the likely career trajectories of individuals who will do research in this area is important. Most scholars and scientists will take the risk of investing their time and talents to study global change only if long-term career development and stability seem possible. One idea is to establish a ''transportable'' 5-year package of dissertation support, postgraduate salary, and research funding. This opportunity could provide an incentive for students facing the choice of thesis topics. Being awarded one of these prestigious pre- and postdoctoral fellowships would make a graduate student attractive to a potential employer upon graduation. It is likely that many universities would be interested in recruiting junior faculty with a 5-year support package.
These questions point to a special and paradoxical challenge for funders who wish to promote research in an interdisciplinary field like global change. Although the purpose of such funding is to encourage scholars and scientists to move beyond and even transcend existing disciplines, to be effective in the real world, research must also flow out of and speak to the special concerns of those disciplines. Unless global change emerges as a new specialty in its own right, which seems unlikely, the people who study it are likely to retain their principal intellectual identities as geologists, economists, climatologists, historians, ecologists, political scientists, and so on. They thus face the classic problem of designing research agendas that address interdisciplinary questions while yielding results that will speak to disciplinary interests. Graduate students are particularly vulnerable in this regard. Their dissertations will do them little good in practical terms if they fail to ground their interdisciplinary work in a disciplinary framework that potential employers—academic departments and other traditional discipline-based institutions—will recognize. To fulfill its own goals in a practical and humane way, any program of graduate funding on global change needs to address this problem intelligently.
These considerations have implications for the development of criteria for evaluating research proposals, as discussed in earlier chapters of this report. Proposals should be evaluated according to their ability to synthesize interdisciplinary questions about global change with the best theoretical and programmatic work in the relevant disciplines. The idea here is to reward proposals that are both theoretical and problem oriented, maintaining links to the disciplines without forfeiting a problem focus. Examples of attractive candidate topics are decision making under uncertainty, collective-action processes, social conflict, and the role of institu-
tions as determinants of collective outcomes. These criteria are especially important to use in evaluating grants in support of graduate and postdoctoral research in this area. Program directors should be attentive to the implications of global change research for the long-term career prospects of younger scholars within their respective disciplines. Failing to do so may frustrate the ultimate goals of supporting global change research.
INSTITUTIONALIZING COOPERATIVE RESEARCH
Major research projects on global change should incorporate the perspectives of both the natural and the social sciences, to say nothing of the humanities. Funders should look askance at any research proposal on the human consequences of global change that fails to include scholars with suitable expertise in social science, and we trust they will be similarly dubious about proposals that address human consequences without some grounding in the natural sciences. Much might be gained, for instance, if a research team examining the socioeconomic consequences of global change were encouraged to have a climatologist and an ecologist among their number; conversely, there would be similar gains if geological studies of coastal flooding were encouraged to have an economist and/or sociologist aboard. Since natural and social scientists are not generally accustomed to working together, funders can create strong incentives for doing so. If they fail to do so, chances are that critical interdisciplinary questions simply will not be asked. Sponsors of research on global change are in a position to influence the way that research is organized. By controlling resources needed for interdisciplinary projects, funders can suggest that major investigations be organized as teams that include relevant social scientists and humanists, in addition to natural scientists. We believe that any global change research proposal that includes only natural scientists or only social scientists should justify the failure to include personnel with relevant expertise. Funders can use their leverage in these ways to promote appropriate interdisciplinary collaborations. We are not suggesting that funding agencies regulate the composition of research teams, nor are we calling for a quota system for disciplines. Rather, we suggest that agencies offer incentives to investigators who form multidisciplinary research teams when it is appropriate to do so.
Here again we encounter the paradox of interdisciplinary questions having to yield disciplinary answers. From the point of view of an economist joining a research team studying ozone deple-
tion, or an ecologist joining a team studying climatic threats to temperate agriculture, his or her own work must yield published results that other economists and ecologists will recognize as significant and therefore worthy of career advancement. As long as global change researchers retain their principal identities in the existing disciplines, and as long as career rewards flow through those disciplines, large-scale research projects should yield significant interdisciplinary results that also advance the intellectual agendas of the participating disciplines. In practical terms, this means that research projects will ideally yield major reports on global change as well as individual monographs on its economic or ecological or other disciplinary aspects. To solve this problem, we must enlist the support of mainstream academic disciplines to define the ways in which global change research can speak to the core disciplinary questions of relevant fields. Possible ways of doing this include special conferences organized within a targeted discipline but including participation by outside scholars, special issues of leading disciplinary journals devoted to discussing global change as a research area, and discussions within the major scholarly and scientific associations about ways in which they might put global change onto their institutional agendas.
In our judgment, the social science professional associations can play significant roles in this area. Among other things, they can allocate space on the programs of their annual conventions to panels on the human dimensions of global change, organize conferences designed to explore disciplinary contributions to the study of global change, arrange for special issues devoted to global change in the journals they sponsor, include information in their newsletters about global change research activities, and provide advice to association members interested in identifying ways to become involved in global change research. A necessary condition for action on the part of the professional associations in this realm is the availability of material resources. We therefore recommend the initiation of a program of competitive grants to provide associations with incentives to become active in this field. One objective of these activities is to develop frameworks that can guide the design of interdisciplinary research projects that will be conducted with enthusiasm by scholars and scientists from the individual disciplines. A start in the direction of providing an interdisciplinary framework is made in the earlier chapters of this report.
The review panel process of major grant-giving agencies may easily frustrate interdisciplinary research. Grant-giving programs
are usually organized along disciplinary lines, so that review panelists are generally drawn from particular disciplines with their own special evaluative criteria and research agendas. Members of one discipline often have little understanding of the theoretical orientations and methodologies utilized by members of other disciplines. Thus, disciplinary perspectives can play a counterproductive role in determining whether research receives funding. Programs that fund global change research must therefore be especially careful to draw their panelists from a wide array of disciplines and to make clear their expectations that disciplinary criteria should not bias evaluations. A two-step review process in which disciplinary panels evaluate the particular disciplinary contributions of a major collective project, and interdisciplinary panels evaluate its overall significance as a contribution to understanding of global change may be desirable in some instances.
ORGANIZATION BARRIERS TO RESEARCH IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
So far, this chapter has addressed issues relating to researchers and research institutions. The evolution of global change research in the federal government has also erected serious barriers to the support of research in human dimensions of global change. The U.S. government, which supports research on human interactions as part of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), is simply not structured appropriately for managing the human interactions science element. There is an almost complete mismatch between the roster of federal agencies that support research on global change and the roster of agencies with strong capabilities in social science. Of the agencies supporting global change research, only the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a strong social science capability—and NSF accounts for only a small portion of the budget for human interactions research. The major sources of support are mission agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the departments of Energy, Interior, and Agriculture, none of which has more than limited expertise in a few fields of social science. Historically, the federal agencies with missions in global change have not considered environmental social science to be a significant part of those missions. And except for NSF, the major agencies concerned with understanding human systems (e.g., the National Institutes of
Health, the Census Bureau, and the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Education) have neither major environmental missions nor any role in USGCRP. Because of this division of labor, no entity in the federal government has both the responsibility and the human resources to develop and update a comprehensive research agenda for human interactions.
The problem is not easily solved. Increased control over the human interactions science element by social science agencies would not work. Added NSF involvement might strengthen basic environmental social science but would probably not lead to development of major areas of applied research. Social mission agencies could contribute in a few areas, such as by managing studies of the consequences of global change for health and the delivery of human services or developing educational strategies to support mitigation or adaptation. But many of the most important practical questions concern energy use, land use, environmental management, adoption of new technologies, and use of technical information and so are in the domain of mission agencies such as the Department of Energy, EPA, USDA, and NASA.
The technical mission agencies, however, are not currently organized to manage environmental social science research. Social science has never been a central part of their missions, and it may not have proven particularly useful to date in addressing applied problems considered most critical to the agencies' concerns. This is not to suggest fault on the part of either the social scientists or the agency policy makers: to be relevant requires a dialogue between these communities that has not so far occurred.
The federal government should develop a strategy to ensure that the human interactions research agenda is designed and administered by organizations committed to understanding both environmental and human systems. This implies either changes in the orientation and staffing of critical mission agencies or considering new institutional approaches. The Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) might delegate important human-environment issues to NSF, or to particular mission agencies with the requirement that they bring on new staff or outside expertise to help with research agenda setting and management. We recommend that mission agencies that usually support only applied research in the social sciences but have basic research programs in the natural sciences dealing with global change initiate support of basic research in the social sciences targeted on specific topics relating to global change. This support should be
managed and guided by social scientists added to agency staffs for the purpose, outside advisory groups, or both. Where such approaches do not seem likely to be sufficient, government might also create new organizational entities that bring social and natural scientists together around focused human-environment issues, both basic and applied.
The necessary advances in theory, methodology, and data discussed in the earlier chapters will not be made without taking into account the concerns about human resources and organizations discussed in this chapter. In particular, we need to foster stronger partnerships between social and natural scientists and to stimulate social scientists to transcend the perspectives and methods that guide disciplinary research. These goals will not be achieved without a long-term commitment to providing adequate funds and appropriate institutional structures to administer these funds and sustain participation by a sufficient number of well-trained scientists.