International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems

Research on coupled human and natural systems (CHANS) has recently emerged as an exciting and integrative frontier of cross-disciplinary scientific inquiry. The field has gained momentum through the establishment of the program on Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The projects supported by NSF and other funding agencies in the United States and other counties cover a variety of CHANS in locations spanning the globe. However, most research has been conducted through the traditional mechanism of individual site-based projects. Although these site-based projects have generated many important insights, it is essential to systematically transform the field to be more than the sum of its parts and provide broader insights of greater scientific and societal significance than those resulting from site-based projects alone.

Intellectual Merit. The goal of this project is to foster that transformation by developing an international network of research on CHANS (CHANS-Net) to facilitate communication and collaboration among members of the CHANS research community and to take CHANS science to a higher level of synthesis. This goal will be pursued through four interrelated objectives: 

(1) promote communication and collaboration within the CHANS community through virtual interaction 
(2) facilitate communication and collaboration through face-to-face interaction
(3) generate and disseminate comparative and synthesis scholarship on CHANS complexity
(4) strengthen, broaden and diversify the CHANS community. 

These objectives will be achieved through a set of activities including the creation of a state-of-the-art web-based Virtual Resource Center to offer timely exchange and dissemination of important information; the organization of symposia and workshops to compare and synthesize the latest research findings and methods on CHANS complexity across various research sites; the publication of first-rate comparative and synthesis results on CHANS complexity in a book series by a leading publisher and as special issues in leading journals; by providing unique mentoring opportunities at informal roundtable events, and by creating a CHANS Fellows program to enable the participation of students and junior researchers in CHANS-Net activities, with particular efforts to encourage the participation of students and junior scholars from under-represented groups. This project is directly aimed atinciting collaboration across rapidly growing site-based studies and from an interdisciplinary perspective. The development of systematic understanding requires synthesis of the findings from site-based studies, and this undertaking exceeds the intellectual and logistical means of the individual researcher or research group. It will only be through the collaborative effort of researchers at multiple sites working together that broader generalizations will be possible.

Broader Impacts. This proposal responds directly to recent calls for an international network on CHANS research. CHANS-Net will advance discovery and understanding of CHANS through enhancing communication and collaboration within the CHANS community. Its Virtual Resource Center will offer useful information for researchers and others from around the world who are interested in CHANS. This and other activities will further stimulate interest in CHANS research and increase the number and the effectiveness of scientists pursuing CHANS research. In addition to the production of scholarly synthesis, this project will result in many other very important products, such as the identification of research gaps and priorities, improvement in methods for rigorous comparative analyses across site-based CHANS studies, training of a new generation of leaders in CHANS research, and building of professional relationships that will lead to longer, deeper and broader collaboration in the future. These will in turn provide useful information to help facilitate the transition to CHANS sustainability.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Lead Investigator: 
Jianguo "Jack" Liu
Bill McConnell