In November, two MRI Science Leadership Council (SLC) members headed to Japan to attend key events on mountain science and disaster risk.
Representing the MRI at the International Symposium on Mountain Sciences 2017 in Tsukuba, Japan, Prof. Dr. Jörg Balsiger gave a talk on the MRI's work and the way in which it is adapting to trends in mountain research and international mountain policy. In Tokyo, meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Irasema Alcántara-Ayala participated as co-chair at the 18th Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Scientific Committee Meeting.
Of mountains and politics
Taking place on 15 November at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, the International Symposium on Mountain Sciences 2017 focused on the topic 'Mountain Science Frontiers: Planning International and Interdisciplinary Studies.' It was held to mark the opening of the University of Tsukuba's Mountain Sciences Centre (MSC), which aims to establish mountain science as a comprehensive field of research, and was attended by Prof. Dr. Jörg Balsiger, MRI Principle Investigator and SLC member.
In a talk entitled 'Now You See Me, Now You Don't: Mountains on the Political Agenda,' Balsiger discussed the MRI's origins as an organization seeking to support the detection of global change signals in mountain regions, the analysis of the expected impacts of global change on mountain regions, and the provision of advice for the sustainable management of mountain regions. Balsiger then went on to describe the shift in the focus of the MRI - from system knowledge to target knowledge and transformation knowledge - and how this culminated in the MRI's successful bid to become a Sustaining Partner of Future Earth.
At present, the MRI is undergoing a threefold transition: a thematic consolidation around mountain observatories and social-ecological systems; a leadership change with an enlarged scientific advisory body and a new director; and an institutional move from the National Science Foundation to the Academy of Sciences, where mountain issues are being merged with landscape and spatial development. These changes, said Balsiger, are reflective of recent trends in mountain research and international mountain policy. Such trends include the challenge to maintain the relevance of mountains as a separate yet cross-cutting issue on scientific and political agendas (such as Agenda 2030), the trend towards a disaggregated view of mountains as bundles of resources or functionally specialized regions, and the growing urgency to make mountain science societally relevant and hence accepting of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches. As part of the same event, he also gave a seminar on 'Relational Dynamics in Climate Change Adaptation,' which explored the multi-level and multi-sectoral nature of climate change policies in general - and disaster risk management in mountain regions in particular.
Tackling disaster risk
The 18th Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) Scientific Committee Meeting was held in Tokyo, Japan, 20-21 November, with MRI SLC member Prof. Dr. Irasema Alcántara-Ayala participating as IRDR Scientific Committee co-chair.
Hosted by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and co-organized by IRDR and the Science Council of Japan, the meeting focused on the future of IRDR, including its strategic plan, communication strategy, governance structure, and the contribution of existing working groups.
A decade-long research programme co-sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), IRDR is a global, multi-disciplinary approach to dealing with the challenges brought by natural disasters, mitigating their impacts, and improving related policy-making mechanisms.