ERC releases plan for global initiative

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: This brief misspelled the Environmental Research Council (ERC) chair’s name. The chair is Dara Entekhabhi, not Dana Entekhabi.

ERC releases plan for global initiative

Many visions of the future presented during MIT150 concern the Institute itself and nearby Kendall Square — but MIT’s Environmental Research Council (ERC) had larger goals in mind, global-sized goals. In December, the ERC released an implementation plan for the establishment of a Global Environment Initiative (GEI), whose challenge is to “integrate the Institute’s core strengths in … research to better understand the global environment and manage our role in it.”

The GEI, complementary to MIT’s Energy initiative (MITEI), was largely inspired by how successful MITEI has been in formalizing energy research over the past five years. Although many MIT researchers currently focus their work on global sustainability, there is need to organize these efforts. The GEI aims to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and communication that will lead to more rapid innovation, termed by the report as “building strength on strength.”

The GEI created an initial research agenda addresses six key areas: climate, oceans, water, ecological resilience, contamination mitigation, and sustainable societies. By assigning headers to a limited number of research priorities, the GEI will concentrate the currently “scattered” research endeavors. At the ERC’s December forum, Dana Entekhabi, ERC chair and professor of civil and environmental engineering, compared current environmental research to a large “trial-and-error” method; ultimately, the goal is to create a well-defined, “rational” method of sustainably enabling human development.

One of the initiative’s first concrete steps will be to raise funding for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, enabling cross-disciplinary projects that would otherwise have a hard time securing initial funding. As for Institute-wide engagement, the GEI hopes to host multiple educational workshops and symposia, and launch a new undergraduate minor in global studies.

—Adisa Kruayatidee