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European Future Earth community discussed how to advance global change research in Europe

Europe has a strong structural representation in the most influential new operator in current global change research, Future Earth. Four hubs of the secretariat are located in Europe: headquarters (“global hubs”) in Sweden and France; regional secretariats for Europe and for the MENA region in the UK and in Cyprus. Future Earth core projects include active European scientists, and the European Alliance of Global Change represents over 20 Future Earth or global change national committees in Europe. 

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In 2015, European Alliance together with European Secretariats, hubs and several core projects began a closer collaboration. As a result, European Alliance invited different European Future Earth operators and European research funders to discuss how to advance Future Earth activities in Europe. The workshop took place in Innsbruck, Austria 5-6 November 2015.

The workshop participants represented Future Earth Engagement Committee members, European secretariat and hubs, national committees, core projects, and funders from DG Research & Innovation, Belmont Forum, COST, and JPI Water. Together, this extensive group of experts explored synergies, gaps, and resource efficiency in the European Future Earth activities.

The workshop discussed the roles of different Future Earth operators and their main tasks. A clear need emerged to streamline the European research and funding global change landscape together; rather than starting from scratch, it is important to use what is already there. Europe has an opportunity to export its knowledge and experience and to scale it up beyond Europe.

In conclusion, Future Earth should serve as a source of expertise on how research should address the grand challenges. Key methods include a solutions-oriented approach, tackling questions in an interdisciplinary fashion, and co-designing research with those who will use the results. Finally, global change is the framework that shows how the grand challenges are interlinked: they cannot be solved in isolation.

The workshop also highlighted the need for a communication platform for sharing best practices and for creating ideas for joint proposals. The network is open for all researches, organizations, and stakeholders to join in the future. 

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