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CSIRO Valuing Sustainability Future Science Platform Newsletter, July 2024

Director's Note

Peat Leith standing behind a lectern talking at the 2024 Sustainability Science Symposium

Since our last newsletter in late 2023, the Valuing Sustainability Future Science Platform reached an important milestone. It is now more than halfway through its 5-year life!

It has also been kicking goals. Our projects and early career researchers are well into their research and starting to produce some really interesting research papers and early findings. We feature as much of this as possible on our news page and provide a taster below.

In March we hosted CSIRO’s Sustainability Science Symposium, at the QT Hotel in Canberra. This event was a fantastic opportunity to extend discussions and debates beyond our research  teams, and engage with a much wider group. The FSP team put in a huge effort to design an amazing program, and the participants from elsewhere in CSIRO, government and universities were engaged. The nature and diversity of the sessions, and the research we are doing, left some participants with exploding brains.

Discussions at the Symposium ranged from how we can move from indicators of ecosystem state to leading indicators that can help us more proactively manage ecosystem health, to ways that we can build considerations of justice and equity of outcomes into sustainability research. All this aligns with our core objective of building capability to develop systemic approaches to advance sustainability. Read more about the Symposium.

A highlight of the Symposium was a keynote talk by one of the FSP’s Science Reference Group members, Professor Clark Miller from Arizona State University. Clark is a leading international researcher in sustainability transitions and has been doing impactful work on societally useful energy transitions in Phoenix. He was in Australia for a week, during which time he participated in a research retreat and workshop with one of our project teams, gave an additional seminar at ANU’s Centre for Public Awareness of Science, as well as having meetings with CSIRO Towards Net Zero Mission, Missions Office, Strategy Director and a variety of others. Prior to his visit Clark did a webinar entitled "Which Future will we build?" with Peta Ashworth, Director of Curtin University Institute for Energy Transition; this webinar was recorded for anyone wanting to watch.

Here's our latest news and outputs of the FSP and worth looking into in more detail:

  1. Dr Nikki Dumbrell, one of the VS FSP’s post-doctoral researchers, has published an article in The Rangelands Journal that develops a novel approach to using regional and local plans and strategies to help identify the sorts of co-benefits that are relevant for a given community when investing in land restoration in given places. This work provides a way of aligning investment in natural capital or restoration activities with the sorts of social, economic and cultural outcomes which communities care about.
  2. Another recent paper led by Dr Danilo Urzedo highlights the potential negative consequences of relying too much on AI chatbots, which can exacerbate and reinforce bias, neglecting views of the marginalised. Such work is critical in revealing and avoiding the un-levelness of the existing playing field when defining the sorts of ecological restoration we pursue and invest in.
  3. Our latest news also highlights recent conferences and international visits attended by our postdocs. Delphi Ward presented her work on serious gaming at Pax Aus 2023. Sabrina Chakori visited labs and went to conferences in Europe and Columbia to advance her novel research on postgrowth transitions. Danilo Urzedo and Cathy Robinson hosted a session on Indigenous Perspectives at the World Conference on Ecological Restoration.

Reflection on CSIRO’s Sustainability Science Symposium

CSIRO’s Sustainability Science Symposium, held at the QT Hotel Canberra on 12-13 March 2024, was more than a showcase. It engaged a group of CSIRO scientists with practitioners, policy makers and academics in a discussion about the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of sustainability science for Australia in the 21st Century.

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