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Scholarship with the potential to:

  • inform decisions at the government, business, and household level;
  • improve the design or implementation of public policies; and/or
  • influence public and/or private sector strategies, planning, and behaviors that affect the environment.

SESYNC synthesis projects need not be directly related to a new policy or an action an entity may take; it is the portfolio of projects under a Theme or, in some cases, across Themes that together are actionable.

Organizations that facilitate collaboration and information flow between diverse research disciplines and between the research and public policy community.

The benefits humans enjoy directly from nature, supporting life as we know it, including the human species. Example: timber from forests, clean drinking water, buffering of floods by wetlands, aesthetics and spiritual value of nature.

The study of knowledge, i.e., what it is, how it is acquired, and to what extent it can be known. This field is relevant to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary team science, as each scholarly discipline has its own epistemology that influences what questions are posed, what methods are used, and how scholars conduct their research. Building bridges across different epistemologies is a key process occurring daily at SESYNC as scholars work together to solve difficult problems.

A research method in which scientists from different disciplines work together to define problems, and identify methodologies to solve them.

A person who uses knowledge generated through research to make informed decisions about policies, programs and/or best practices. For SESYNC, examples of knowledge users include policy-makers, natural resource managers, business leaders, households, etc.

A research method in which scientists from different disciplines work independently, then combine their findings to address a common problem.

The ability of a system to respond and adapt to shocks or pressures in order to prevent a qualitative, negative change in the state of a system.

A research approach that accelerates the production of knowledge about the complex interactions between human and natural systems and involves distilling or integrating data, ideas, theories, or methods from the natural and social sciences. This approach may result in new data products, particularly ones that address questions in new spatial or temporal contexts or scales, but may also involve evaluating textual or oral arguments, interpreting evidence, developing new applications or models, or identifying novel areas of study. 

Tightly linked social and biophysical subsystems that mutually influence one another. Example: human behaviors, decisions, and policies influence the status of ecosystems (e.g., water quality) that, in turn, influence human beings’ quality of life and future decisions.

A group or individual that is impacted by, or has an interest in, the research or operations of an organization. Two types of stakeholders exist: internal stakeholders who represent members of the organization or research team, and external stakeholders who represent the knowledge users of the research (e.g., policy makers).

For SESYNC’s purposes, this term refers to systems (social and environmental) that have the ability to persist and flourish over time. Sustainability also means meeting human needs in an equitable way while supporting the natural systems upon which present and future life depends. Participating SESYNC scholars are actively working to discover how best to foster sustainability worldwide.

A research method that draws from many sources, including researchers and/or multiple fields of inquiry, accelerating knowledge production by distilling data, ideas, theories, or methods. Synthesis may involve the development or application of models or the integration of methods from different disciplines to define new approaches or research directions. It may also involve critical analysis to evaluate arguments or interpret evidence, from the highly quantitative (data sets) to the highly qualitative (oral histories).

The collaboration of multiple scientists to address critical problems that cannot be addressed by an individual working alone. Team science differs from team “work” as the way in which scientists interact in this discovery process is quite unique; the research findings from team work in fields like organizational theory applied in the business sector or theories of group cognition applied to the medical field are not fully relevant with regard to understanding how teams of scientists progress. Thus, a new field called the “science of team science” is now emerging. This burgeoning field has and will continue to inform the programs and processes at SESYNC.

Research Themes are general research topics that may include a variety of related research questions, whereas Research Pursuits are individual research projects under a given theme. The “portfolio” of Pursuits that SESYNC funds under a Theme together help address major socio-environmental research questions. SESYNC leadership actively facilitates interactions among participants within different Pursuits under a given theme in order to promote comprehensive research on a topic.

A research method in which scientists from different disciplines work with stakeholders and practitioners to co-define problems, and then develop a common language to discuss them. Participatory transdisciplinary research is when stakeholders are involved throughout the research process to find an acceptable solution. Consultative transdisciplinary research is when stakeholders propel research by co-defining problems and research questions with scholars to ensure such research will be relevant beyond the scientific community.

Urgent problems that are ill-defined, dynamic, complex, public, and often intractable, typically related to global climate change, water resource management, biodiversity, and sustainable development. A key attribute of such problems is that there is not necessarily a single solution, as social consensus on priorities, outcomes, and modes of action has often not been reached.