Wednesday, 19 January 2011
It's now almost four months since the MRI Strategy Session at Perth, Scotland, and time to take a first look at progress toward the activities discussed there.
Key Contact Workshops (KCW) and Major Scientific Meetings
As I have already described, MRI conducted a KCW on the Sunday before the start of the AGU meeting. The response of participants once again vindicated our choice of format and convinced me to forge ahead with this type of event. The Research Summaries from the KCW are now online (http://mri.scnatweb.ch/events/mri-events/mri-workshop-at-agu-december-2010-san-francisco-usa.html).
MRI was a co-chair in two AGU sessions, one on snowpack and the other the CIRMOUNT session on ecosystem response to variability. The credit for these sessions goes largely to other chairs (Anne Nolin, Timothy Link, Connie Millar, Jeff Hicke and Christina Tague) but the experience reinforced the imperative delivered at Perth for MRI to promote more mountain-centric sessions at major meetings. The latest MRI Flash lists several such sessions occurring at the EGU.
Action Item: The MRI Office will continue and expand its Key Contact Workshops and will develop a more robust approach to tracking major meetings and promoting mountain -centric sessions.
So far MRI has begun email discussions with proponents and resource people for the following topics:
1) Sustainable ecosystem services in mountains: Ariane Walz with cc: to Sandra Diaz, Sandra Lavorel, Adrienne Grêt-Regamey and Tobias Haller.
2) Urban growth in high mountain environments: Prakash Tiwari with cc: to Manfred Perlik, Jörg Balsiger and Bernard Charlery
3) Climate change in high mountain regions (Sonnblick 125th anniversary): Wolfgang Schöner with cc: to Ray Bradley and Henry Diaz
4) Consequences of changes in mountain cryosphere: Ray Bradley
5) Coupled human-earth systems: Julia Klein with cc. to Anne Nolin and Jill Baron.
6) Armed violence in mountain regions and against mountain people: Ken Hewitt.
Action Item: The MRI will continue to pursue the definition of these workshops and others if need be.
Strategic Policy Initiatives
The Strategy Session at Perth emphasized the importance of promoting mountains generally, and global change research in mountains specifically, in upcoming international events such as the UNFCCC and UNCBD COPs and the Rio+20 meeting. This line of action involves all the various mountain actors, which, fortuitously, have now banded together under the heading of the MPC - Mountain Partnership Consortium.
The MPC has agreed to develop two proposals, one focused on the UNFCCC process and the second on the Rio+20 process, that outline campaigns to promote mountains in these processes. The proposals will be finalized by the end of March 2011.
This process involves MRI is three ways:
First, MRI chairs the three-person MPC Bureau which oversees the day-to-day operation of the MPC. Thus MRI's workload has increased but this investment leverages contributions from our natural allies (ICIMOD, CONDESAN, UNEP, etc.).
Second, the Rio+20 proposal envisages regional assessments of progress toward sustainable mountain development since the 1992 conference. Progress in research will be part of those assessments. Thus the regional assessments provide a great opportunity to convene researchers in different regions (e.g., Latin America, Africa) and engage them in a common project - the research component of these assessments.
Third, the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC) has offered to support MRI coordinators in regions such as Latin America, Africa and Central Asia. MRI has always insisted that it needed regional coordinators if it was to truly promote "real projects in real places", a target that I still find compelling. Establishing regional coordinators and charging them with convening their research colleagues to develop the research chapters of the regional assessments for Rio+20 is nearly an ideal way to promote functional regional networks: a real person charged with convening and managing other real people to create a real product!
MRI continues to pursue other strategic initiatives. Dave Schimel told me at the AGU that MRI was on the mailing list to receive IGBP's draft on observing systems (another input to the IGBP Congress in 2012). This effort brings together researchers and GEOSS staff among others, and appears to be the best venue for promoting integrated mountain observatories.
A gap that I must plug is the link to the IPCC. The goal here is to facilitate the MRI community's participation in regional chapters to ensure that mountains are well covered.
Action Item: The MRI will get the regional coordinators on board and participate fully in the campaigns to inform UNFCCC, UNCBD and Rio+20.
MRI continues to work on both the form and the content of its communication to the community.
In terms of form, MRI is committed to creating a social network format for its web presence, one that will contain all the data from the existing website (and much more!) but will also have functionalities more like Facebook with forums and user-generated content. For instance, as we move forward with the Synthesis Workshops, we would like to create forums that support them and store all data related to them.
Currently we are working on two fronts. First, at part of Mtn.TRIP, MRI and IGF in Innsbruck are developing the Mtn.TRIP portal to have all of the functions that we want. It could well be that if this website works as promised, MRI will simply begin using it as its platform. Second, CONDESAN, another MPC partner, is developing what it terms the Mountain Knowledge Hub (MKH), which promises to have similar functionality and would be open to all members of the mountain community to use. This too could be a service that MRI uses in the future.
Even now, before we jump to any new platform, we continue to plan new features on our existing website. We plan for instance to make a searchable library of presentations given at conferences around the world so that the MRI community can find the latest thinking by researchers. We also want to make searchable the growing folder of Research Summaries, the more detailed descriptions of research programs and directions that participants in our Key Contact Workshops provide to us, yet another way to stay on top of the actions of the community. We plan to integrate existing literature search functions in the website, and also to develop a mountain centric RSS feed that will make available to the community a filtered news stream on mountain related topics. In addition we continue to publish the Flashes and the twice-a-year MRI News.
Action Item: MRI will continue with its existing text products, will enhance its existing website, and will evaluate the Mtn.TRIP Portal and the MKH as potential platforms for the future.