A Vision for Transdisciplinarity in Future Earth: Perspectives from Young Researchers
AbstractMeeting the demand for food, energy, and water as world population increases is a major goal for the food systems of the future. These future challenges, which are complex, multiscalar, and cross-sectoral in nature, require a food systems approach that recognizes the socio-ecological and socio-technical dimensions of food (Ericksen, 2008; Ingram, 2011; Rivera-Ferre, 2012). The United Nations' Future Earth Program aims to provide a new platform for consolidating the knowledge required for societies to transition to global sustainability (Future Earth Transition Team, 2012). In this paper, we explore how Future Earth could become a vehicle for inspiring the production of new research ideas and collaborations for sustainably transforming the future food system. We do this on the basis of a synthesis of views from 28 young (below 40 years old) food system scientists, representing five continents. Their expertise comes from disciplines including food engineering, agronomy, ecology, geography, psychology, public health, food politics, nutritional science, political science, sociology and sustainability science. This paper begins with an outline of the institutional framework of Future Earth and how it might support innovative transdisciplinary research on food systems, and the position of young scientists within this framework. Secondly, we outline the key insights expressed by the young scientists during the Food Futures Conference in Villa Vigoni, Italy, in April 2013, including the core research questions raised during the meeting as well as some of the challenges involved in realizing their research ambitions within their professional spheres.
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