Research to guide a world in transition

Professor Dr. Pavel Kabat commenced his appointment as Director General and CEO of IIASA in February 2012. In this article he outlines his views on the future of IIASA and the Institute’s contribution to global change research.  

 © IIASA | Matthias Silveri

Global environmental change, economic turmoil, population growth, and increasing social instability in many regions of the world pose urgent challenges for governments and international organizations. On a daily basis many communities struggle with the already too prevalent consequences of this change, food insecurity, lack of access to clean, reliable supplies of water and energy, or the unintended health and environmental issues associated with carbon based energy sources.

While these issues are socially and economically challenging humans have long shown that through ingenuity and political will it is possible to resolve seemingly insurmountable problems.

At IIASA we are of the strong conviction that by also considering these issues in an integrated ‘systems’ way, it is possible to better understand cause and consequence, and thereby develop responses that can generate benefits in many areas (co-benefits). Some notable recent examples include IIASA’s co-benefits research on air pollution and human and environmental health (GAINS model), acknowledged by the UN and many in the policy making community as a key tool for informing clean air policies and initiatives. The IIASA coordinated Global Energy Assessment offers the first truly integrated assessment of the global energy system and offers direction on improving energy access and security, while mitigating climate change, improving human health and addressing key human development issues. IIASA demographers have recently prepared the Laxenburg Declaration, a statement prepared in the lead up to the RIO+20 Summit. The Declaration encapsulates the views of some of the most respected people working on population and human development and outlines five actions needed to achieve sustainable development. These are just some recent examples where IIASA and our partners offer solutions to what may be described as the unintended ‘wicked problems’ of progress.

One year prior to my appointment as Director General and CEO of IIASA, the Institute adopted a new strategy, one that would deliver IIASA’s vision of “…being the world leader in systems analysis to find solutions to global problems for the benefit of humankind.” While this may seem a daunting task for a relatively small organization, the challenge is borne not only by IIASA but by the very large network of international scientists and organizations with whom we partner. These partnerships are often facilitated or strengthened by our National Member Organizations and their committees who represent the leading researcher communities s in these countries.  

As I begin my journey with IIASA I hope to build on the excellent progress already made by the Institute’s talented and committed staff and partners; to strengthen IIASA’s transboundary collaborations in South East Asia, Central Asia, South America, and Africa; to extend our relationship to the Middle East; to build capacity in new disciplinary areas and within the next generation of young scientists, and to ensure that systems analysis is applied to deliver viable, and practical options for policy makers globally.

Global Change research is on the verge of a complete transformation, one that will involve new methodological approaches and require new organizational structures. I believe IIASA is well positioned to play a key role in this transformation and I look forward to working with all our partners to enable and manage this transformation.

Pavel Kabat March 2012

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Last edited: 28 September 2017


Pavel Kabat

IIASA Director General and Chief Executive Officer


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