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Shaping the future of ecosystem science

September 2013 marks the beginning of an open consultation process with the Australian ecosystem science community to develop a cohesive plan for their long-term future. This process will enable the Australian ecosystem science community to clearly set out our collective long-term priorities and needs, in order to achieve continuity in our efforts and to enable us to move forward with a shared purpose and vision.

Read on to find out why the Australian Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan is significant, how the development of the Plan will work, and what we hope to achieve.

 

Why a long-term plan?

Ecosystem science is critical for addressing national challenges facing Australia, including complex societal challenges outlined in the nation’s Strategic Research Priorities such as living in a changing environment, and managing our food and water assets. We must think and act strategically now, to ensure that we have the best trained people, infrastructure, research programs, and resourcing in place to study, understand, and manage Australia’s ecosystems in the future.

In the past, our capacity for ecosystem research and management activities has been diluted by a lack of continuity and collaboration across the diverse, multidisciplinary community that makes up ecosystem science in Australia. The development of a new Australian Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan will provide a pathway for deeper collaboration and effective coordination across the ecosystem science community, and to identify a common vision, plan and priorities to enable the whole community to advance collectively.

We know from the example of long-term planning processes in other disciplines or scientific communities that these plans can be pivotal for building a robust future. We also know from our own experience that interdisciplinary collaboration is an essential part of understanding ecosystems, and an explicitly interdisciplinary approach leads to significant benefits and advances in the way we do things.

Thus, an explicitly collaborative, inclusive, interdisciplinary approach is intended in developing the Australian Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan to ensure the resultant Plan effectively represents the future needs, priorities, and vision of the whole ecosystem science community.

Our ultimate aim through the Australian Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan is to deliver clear proposals for enhancing Australian ecosystem science over the long-term, including research, human talent, infrastructure, and uptake into policy and management from local, to state, national and international levels.

 

How has this planning process come about?

The idea of an Australian Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan has been discussed for some time, with numerous groups and individuals recognising the importance and value of such a Plan for ensuring we have the best trained people, infrastructure, research programs, and resourcing in place to study, understand, and manage Australia’s ecosystems in future.

In early 2013, a Steering Committee was formed with representatives from the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, Ecological Society of Australia, and Australian Academy of Science, to begin the scoping and planning for the development of a long-term plan.

We are now at a point in the process where broad input can be sought from the Australian ecosystem science community, to enable everyone to have their say in shaping the future of ecosystem science.

 

How will the planning process work?

Core to the development of the Australian Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan are principles of openness, transparency, and inclusion. Ecosystem science incorporates a diverse, multidisciplinary community and the process of developing the new Plan will ensure people from across this broad community have opportunities to contribute and have input to shaping the future of ecosystem science in Australia.

There will be an extensive consultation period for the Plan lasting approximately 6 months (September 2013 – March 2014). During this time a series of ‘town-hall’ style meetings will be held across the country that are open for anyone to attend. Concurrently, an online survey will be used to seek additional input and contributions from across the Australian ecosystem science community. Keep an eye on the Get Involved page on this website to find out how you can be involved in developing the Plan, and sign up here to receive updates.

Ultimately, the collective input from the community will be drawn together by a smaller working group who will synthesise this input into a final Australian Ecosystem Science Long-Term Plan, due for release in mid-2014.