SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
15 February 2018
Volume 19 Issue 2

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Global Horizon Scanning: What’s Next?

Mary Reiley and Annegaaike Leopold, SETAC Global Horizon Scanning Marketing and Outreach Committee

The purpose of the Global Horizon Scanning Project (GHSP) is to to identify geographically specific research needs for a better understanding of adverse impacts of stressors (e.g., chemical, physical, biological) on environmental sustainability. This unique program provides members of SETAC with the opportunity to show leadership in the scientific community, empowers our members to use their expertise and network, unifies SETAC in a common project that brings together the members of our tripartite community, establishes parallelism among global, Geographic Unit (GU) and Interest Group (IG) issues, and facilitates membership engagement in global science conversations so priority research questions continue to be discussed.

To move the GHSP from the research question prioritization phase to the actual research dissemination and partnership phase, members of the GHSP Marketing and Outreach Committee took important steps in the five GUs to share the priority research questions with key stakeholders and explored opportunities for their implementation.

As part of the GHSP session held at the 2016 SETAC World Congress, the outcome of the surveys were presented: The identification of high priority, meaningful and pressing research questions for SETAC sciences in each of our GUs. You can find the presentations and the questions identified for each of the geographic units here.

Following this successful session in Orlando, SETAC Latin America has made the most substantial progress to date. The SETAC Latin America Board, during the 12th SETAC Latin America Biennial Meeting last September in Santos, São Paulo, Brazil, disseminated the results of the GSHP. This action lead to a partnership being established in October with the Funding Authority for Studies and Projects (FINEP) and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). As part of a combined effort, proposals were requested for research projects in the areas of sustainability and industrial ecology that were identified in the SETAC Latin America Horizon Scanning Project (HSP). The top three priority topics for which proposals were being requested included:

  • Cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Complex mixtures

A second call for proposals will be launched in March 2018 in connection with the World Water Forum Conference. This launch will be combined with a television presentation early in 2018. The SETAC Latin America HSP provides a unique opportunity for the state of São Paulo, which is seeking research partners to develop topics in the areas of ecological risk assessment and biology in general. This could provide a model for other states in Brazil and perhaps for other countries in Latin America and other GUs.

SETAC Europe held a round table discussion with stakeholders in the SETAC Europe HSP, providing them with a forum to give their perspective on the identified questions and to discuss how these priority questions might be further addressed. This meeting was held in conjunction with the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting in May 2017 in Brussels. The full report of this meeting can be found here. In summary, as discussed by the 25 invited European stakeholders from government, business and academia, the most important priority areas to address were:

  • Creating awareness through better communication of science and risk to stakeholders and a better understanding of perspectives among stakeholders  
  • Better management and timeliness of data sharing
  • Ensuring that risk management is evidence-based and communicating this to the public
  • Considering economically and environmentally relevant activities rather than (only) groups of chemicals when seeking to address environmental problems dealt with in the global discourse
  • Accounting for multiple stressors in improved risk assessment to allow for better prediction across increasing environmental complexity and spatial-temporal scales

Everyone at the stakeholder event agreed that there is a need to continue these types of cross-fertilizing discussions among stakeholder groups and the SETAC membership, using forums offered by SETAC as a vehicle, and connecting with other organizations, such as the European Centre for Exotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC), the Federation of European Toxicologists & European Societies of Toxicology (EUROTOX), as well as sector-specific organizations ( e.g.,  shipping industry). As also reported by Karel de Schamphelaere in this issue of the Globe, the SETAC Europe Council has integrated the key actions identified and the valorization of the outcome of the SETAC Europe HSP (i.e. key research questions to be addressed) into the SETAC Europe Council Long Range Plan (LRP)  for 2018–2020. In addition, a special session has been organized for the SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 13–17 May in Rome, Italy, to present examples of how to communicate between parties with opposing views on hot topics. This is a cooperation between the GHSP Marketing and Outreach Committee and the Science and Risk Communication Interest Group (SCIRIC).

The first HSP stakeholder symposium in Asia was held on 13 May 2017 in Guangzhou, China. This symposium was attended by 26 professionals. The five most and least important questions were selected from the 23 priority research questions identified in the HSP workshop held in Singapore in 2016, and three new questions were raised during the event. The approach in this symposium was similar to the one at the stakeholder event in Brussels. Participants from the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed positive interest to continue the discussion on HSP deployment. It was considered a successful start. In early December 2017, an international symposium was held in Vietnam, where local authorities and scientists were introduced to international science priorities, including HSP questions. As a result, SETAC is working to partner with the Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to further provide training in risk assessment and other key areas of SETAC science and improved impact assessment capacity for MONRE, and hopefully other Southeast Asian countries’ regulators. Also, SETAC held an awareness building program at the Malaysian Congress of Toxicology in December 2017 to generate interest in GHSP and identify key partners in this region. Coming up, a dedicated session on the GHSP will be part of the SETAC Asia-Pacific 2018 Conference, held from 16–19 September in Daegu, South Korea, to further build awareness and enhance opportunities in addressing identified research priorities.

In Australasia, contacts have been established with the President of Science and Technology Australia and the Australian Research Council. An Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting to be held in Papua New Guinea this year will provide an opportunity to promote the HSP and discussions have been held with the Chairman of the Papua New Guinea Research Science and Technology Council on ways to prioritize specific Australasian HSP questions under the Australia–Papua New Guinea partnership agreement. In addition, as part of  the 2020 World Congress, which will be held from 6–10 September 2020 in Singapore, a report on the various GU outcomes and the overall impact of the GHSP will be presented.

Progress was also made in the HSP of SETAC Africa. A stakeholder meeting was held on 23 August 2017 at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria, South Africa. Bryan Brooks and Victor Wepener met with 12 representatives from government, private sector and academia. As part of these discussions, there was an opportunity to deliberate on the outcomes of the HSP workshop and further discuss subsequent participant ideas. Differences related to cross-boundary scales were identified as difinitive considerations when addressing the environmental issues that Africa faces. A systems approach would be beneficial to address these cross-boundary problems. Knowing how to understand these issues, as they are interconnected with regional government priorities, will be be essential when starting to address the questions on important endpoints. Overall, it was concluded that a regional or country-specific approach, similar to the one being taken in SETAC Latin America, will work better for SETAC Africa than a continent-wide approach. 

North America held its first HSP outreach meeting on 20 November 2017, immediately after the SETAC North America 38th Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A focus meeting was held at the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), Alexandria, Virginia, offices. The meeting was also attended by the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE), the National Council on Science and the Environment (NCSE), and several members and staff of SETAC, including Mary Reiley, Bryan Brooks, Charlie Menzie, Ross Smith, Tamar Schlekat and Heather Henry. The goal of the meeting was to introduce North American non-governmental organizations, whose missions align with SETAC’s, to the GHSP, its purpose and our initial outcomes. During the meeting, we evaluated what each organization could bring to outreach, education and research, as well as research support on the important questions brought forward through this specific project within North America and in some cases for other specific SETAC GUs. We gathered a number of action items to take into 2018 to move our common interests forward, engage  broader participation and further connect SETAC North America members with potential funding collaborators. A ranking survey of the top North America questions will be performed this spring. If you are a SETAC North America member, please take a few minutes to provide your priorities during this phase of the project.

In conclusion, 2017 brought us from information gathering into information dissemination and partner building with the goal of getting key environmental quality research questions in the hands of entities that fund such research. We started to bring the research questions raised during the GHSP into the mainstream of discussion within each GU. Of course, the objective of outreach and engagement is to begin the process of translating research questions identified by SETAC members into research trajectories through calls for proposals, and as stated earlier, SETAC Latin America is currently leading the way in this regard and should be commended for their efforts. 

Plans for 2018 will take us further down the path as we complete the following:

  1. Develop a strategic plan to roll out the GHSP results across the GUs
  2. Connect with other funding organizations to engage in the rollout
  3. Create a framework for communicating the GHSP results within and outside of SETAC
  4. Involve students in the project through the respective student committees and councils

The GHSP Marketing and Outreach Committee is planning on using the SETAC Globe as one of the forums for informing SETAC’s membership and friends on the progress and other related aspects of the GHSP. If you have contacts and networks you believe we should tap into, please contact Mary Reiley and Annegaaike Leopold. But even more importantly, review the GHSP summary results, decide how you can get further involved, such as finding a partner (or two), and tell all of us about it! 

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