Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Landscape Management

June 11, 2012

Hosted by the International Food Policy Research Institute

June 12-13, 2012

Hosted by USAID

A series of meetings that began in 2010 focused initially in the U.S. federal government on enhancing the value of research investments in sustainability science has grown to include a number of high-level U.S. and international partners that recognize the need to build and implement a new global knowledge system for sustainable landscape management.  The Partnership is now known as “Knowledge Systems for Sustainability” (KSS).  The 11 June General KSS Partnership meeting solidified the roles and contributions of member organizations and welcomed several additional partners, notably, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Laboratories led by the Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL), the Australian federal research organization, Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organization (CSIRO) and the United Kingdom’s National Environmental Research Council (NERC).  The focus of the 12-13 June meeting held at USAID was to review the ongoing activities in a number of international “KSS Cases.”  By “Case,” we mean a specific, large, funded project focused on sustainable management of valued services, accessed from a landscape, area and/or region, at scale.  The KSS Partnership is focused on the formulation of a new type of knowledge system that can more adequately support local decision-making about how valued services are accessed from landscapes that, in aggregate, determine longer term, larger scale trajectories toward “safe operating space” for human beings and the planet.  We use geographically defined “cases” anchored in a common framework to work systematically across scales and geographies to access and link data, information and knowledge assets to decision-making through a learning knowledge system.

Our concept of a knowledge system has four intersecting dimensions: i) decision processes and decision support; ii) data, information and knowledge; iii) modeling; iv) user interfaces and participation.  We have now established teams of colleagues, drawn from across sectors and countries, for each knowledge system dimension and for the overall KSS Partnership framework and cyberinfrastructure.

Moving forward after the June meeings, KSS colleagues who have accepted responsibility for leading each Dimension Team, and the KSS Framework and Cyberinfrastructure Teams will continue to develop the theoretical and operational structure of the KSS.  At these meetings we formalized an additional set of teams focused in each of the major international “KSS Cases.” Each case leader has agreed to document the purpose, activities and desired outcomes of their projects that are relevant to KSS and to explore framing these in terms of the broader KSS concepts and principles.  Each international KSS Case presented at this meeting was selected to anchor in the CGIAR Consortium composed of 15 international agricultural research and development centers who collectively execute a series of Consortium Research Programs (CRPs).  The three cases considered at the meeting were i) Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA); ii) Africa Rising—a program embodying USAID’s sustainable intensification research portfolio in Africa; iii) the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA).   All presentations are posted on a Basecamp site (See Annex 8) available to meeting attendees and available to prospective partners by request.

The KSS Cyberinfrastructure Team and the KSS Framework Team will each advance their respective aspects of the knowledge system within each KSS Case in landscapes where the objective is to focus on the role of local decision-making in sustainably accessing valued services from that landscape (food, materials, energy, water and/or other ecosystem services).

KSS partners drawn from government agencies, academia, non-profit non-governmental organizations and industry will continue to refine a set of core documents including i) a white paper that provides a comprehensive detailed overview of our initiative focused on Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Landscape Management; ii) a short paper intended for publication in PNAS Perspectives; iii) a short “elevator pitch” document and slide library.

This meeting marks an important transition in the development of the KSS Partnership.  We have to date, held a primary focus on setting the conceptual structures and frameworks that will inform our coordinated approaches to the challenges of managing our demands from landscapes more sustainably.  There was broad consensus that we are ready to begin to explore strategies that will operationalize these concepts, testing the ways in which these commitments and insights will forge pathways from data and information to knowledge specifically relevant to demonstrably “improved” outcomes at scale.  Within each case, we are now prepared to begin the processes that will test the value of the KSS approach, and further inform the Partnership’s shared commitments.  Sets of teams supported by organizations and institutions are now defined and will be launched and supported moving forward.

The next major general Partnership meeting will be (tentatively) hosted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory 27-28 November, 2012.  Another major Partnership meeting is now confirmed for 11-12 June, 2013 linked to the Tallberg Forum in Sweden where we have been invited to showcase our work as a major theme of their annual meeting.  Other Partnership meetings including Dimension and Case Teams, activities, conferences, and proposal preparations are listed in the full meeting report below.



KSS Meeting Summary_120810_FINAL