Urban studies have a long tradition in the social sciences, engineering sciences, and planning. Contributions from the natural sciences and health sciences recently have expanded knowledge about urban issues. Absent thus far has been a framework that integrates these disciplinary contributions. An interdisciplinary approach and an effective network that links researchers from across the globe are essential to understanding the complex interactions among global environmental change and urban processes. A stronger collaboration among academics and policy makers also is needed to craft policies that can mitigate the consequences of those interactions. The Scientific Steering Committee of the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) on Global Environmental Change has selected Arizona State University as the International Project Office (IPO) for a core project that focuses on urbanization. The Urbanization IPO will assist the IHDP in developing and administering the project in order to help build an expanded international network of scholars and policy makers that better understand the urbanization process. The IPO also will aim to connect research to public policy with respect to theories, models and methods, state policies, and local initiatives related to urbanization and global environmental change. To build this network, the IPO will organize international workshops and conferences and will use communication tools like a listserv, newsletter, and web site to alert participating researchers to funding opportunities and other important kinds of information.
The new Urbanization IPO is expected to ensure the flow of information among the IHDP Scientific Steering Committee, other components of the IHDP, and the wider research community, and it is expected to promote new generations of urbanization research. The scientists who participate in IHDP activities constitute a network of more than 1,000 researchers. The Urbanization IPO should help ensure that U.S.-based networks of scholars studying urbanization connect with their international counterparts. The Urbanization Project should help create new interdisciplinary knowledge through innovative conceptual and methodological approaches. More integrated research on urbanization should result, especially research that links social science with natural sciences, engineering, planning, and finance. The IPO will become a key player in the development of theories, strategies, and methods to effectively engage in interdisciplinary research and to encourage young scientists to reach across the social-natural science divide. The Urbanization Project represents a major opportunity for addressing the social, economic, and environmental consequences of urbanization in rich and poor countries. Its research agenda will reach a vast network of international scientists and will dovetail with other emerging research initiatives. The Urbanization IPO's greatest contribution should be its help in bringing together an ever-larger and more-diverse assemblage of scholars on pressing urban issues. In addition, the IPO will communicate these integrative research results to decision makers, practitioners, and other end-users at local, national, and international levels, thus linking cutting-edge academic research to public policy.
Sander van der Leeuw
National Science Foundation, Division of Biological and Critical Systems
September 2006 - August 2011