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Home > Publications > Reports and Reviews > Review of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (2009)

Review of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme

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Published: February 2009

Report from an ICSU-IGFA Review Panel

Executive summary

This report is the result of a review of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) carried out by a Review Panel appointed by it s sponsor—the International Council for Science (ICSU)—and the International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research (IGFA). The review was under taken simultaneously with a review of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). The report consists of three parts: an introductory chapter, a chapter on findings and other relevant information, and a chapter on recommendations. The annexes present background information including a list of Review Panel members and the Terms of Reference for the Review.

In short, the IGBP Review Panel recognizes the many important achievements of this international scientific research Programme, and we conclude that IGBP-type research will continue to play a significant role in the science of global environmental change (GEC) and in helping society meet the urgent GEC-related challenges. But, at the present time, IGBP lacks the focus and planning to meet these challenges. To achieve its potential, IGBP should:

  1. modify its strategic vision so that it is clearly based upon, and articulates, Programme-wide priorities. The vision should provide a framework extending 10 years into the future and be consistent with the overall evolution of GEC research (see recommendation 11), focus on the Programme’s value-adding functions in a global context, and take account of societal needs whilst maintaining excellent science.
  2. initiate a prioritization process for the Programme as a whole that identifies the highest scientific priorities to which IGBP can bring an international dimension and significant added-value, and a means for their evolution. The priorities should be question- and problem-based, and should not necessarily seek to embrace work on all components of the Earth system and linkages among all of its domains.
  3. reinstate and prioritize Fast-track Initiatives as a means of staying out ahead of, but sensitive to, policy and practice needs and/or rapidly emerging scientific issues.
  4. consider as a matter of urgency how to maximize the scientific, policy, and practice impact s of IGBP-related science as it frames the second round of Synthesis Reports that will begin to be developed around 2011.
  5. through the IGBP Secretariat and International Project Offices, work strategically with a limited number of existing international bodies and activities (e.g., Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Intergovernmental Plat form on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) to provide the science that will underpin key policy decisions at the international level.
  6. note the Panel’s recommendation that ICSU should reconfigure the IGBP Scientific Committee (SC) so that its size and composition become practical for the strategic decision-making purpose for which it exists.
  7. improve communication with and involvement of National Commit tees in activities such as priority setting, as a recruiting ground for new SC members and Core Project Scientific Steering Committee members, and as means of disseminating information, especially in developing countries.
  8. concentrate on encouraging and developing networks of National Commit tees to provide regional representation and presence rather than establishing more Regional Offices. This should be done in close cooperation with relevant existing regional networks and offices.
  9. improve communication and collaboration with International Scientific Unions and other ICSU Interdisciplinary Bodies to help in developing science priorities, to reach the full breadth of GEC expertise in the ICSU family, and to involve a broader base of scientist s from the developing world.
  10. focus its fundraising strategy on developing fewer research priorities and more policy-practice-relevant science to at tract new and existing funders rather than investing its limited resources in seeking overseas development assistance funds or in establishing a new Board of Trustees at this time.

In addition,

11. the future role of the Ear th System Science Partnership (ESSP), and need for it, will require further detailed and critical examination in the context of a holistic examination of the long-term strategy for GEC research.

12. ICSU, in collaboration with the other GEC sponsors, GEC Programmes, ESSP, and IGFA, should identify an appropriate process to develop the framework for an ongoing strategic advisory mechanism to the GEC Programmes.

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