Most Outstanding Paper in the 2017 Sustainability Science Best Paper Awards

The winner of the Sustainability Science 2017 Best Paper Award is “Transdisciplinary co-design of scientific research agendas: 40 research questions for socially relevant climate engineering research” by Dr. Masahiro Sugiyama et al. (2017). The paper was selected out of 62 eligible paper submissions. Congratulations to ESS co-author, Dr. Atsushi Ishii (Tokyo University).

Paper Abstract: If we, humans, had a capacity to develop a technology to change the earth’s climate, should we refrain from it? Or should we do it? Under what condition and how? Scientists and policymakers have begun discussing such technologies called climate engineering or geoengineering because these technologies could be used to cool the earth to counteract global warming. Among them, stratospheric aerosol injection has received significant attention. Although it has not been developed, it is not a science fiction either. This is a high-stake technology with large uncertainties, and it is desirable to reflect the interests and concerns of stakeholders and the publics from the early stage of research and development. And yet, almost all previous research projects have been developed by experts and policymakers.

We researchers of diverse disciplines, stakeholders, and policymakers in Japan—brainstormed possible research questions. Starting from about 350 questions, we narrowed them into 40 in a 1-day workshop, following the methodology that has been extensively used in various issues that involve science and policy. In the selection process, we used a tailored voting method, in which any question receiving at least one vote remained, to protect minority opinions. This methodological innovation was crucial for such a controversial topic as climate engineering. The resulting 40 questions reflect a diverse set of concerns and interests and can serve as a starting point for future research projects. The study also demonstrated that with a careful planning, transdisciplinary research on a contentious issue is indeed feasible.