The ACEAS Grand Workshop 2014 PDF Print E-mail

Science making sense: the role of transdisciplinary synthesis

May 7-9, Shine Dome, Canberra, attended by over 80 people from throughout Australia.


The Grand ACEAS Workshop 2014 explored the relevance of analysis and synthesis through the experience of ACEAS participants. The ACEAS community pioneered the Synthesis Centre experiment in Australia, and spoke with authority about the utility and relevance of an intervention such as ACEAS. The event was a combination of public discussion and the traditional ACEAS Workshop.


Not only a paper was written as a result of the workshop (Lynch et al. 2015), but a Special Issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment 'Catalysing transdisciplinary synthesis in ecosystem science and management' was produced to which ACEAS and other synthesis centre groups of similar age submitted articles. The SI was published, with open-access for one year, in September 2015. To see this publication (Science for the Total Environment 534: 1-184) click here.


All articles with links are listed on the Publications page of this web site.


One of the features of this Workshop was the Hypothetical which you can watch here.



What happened:


Wednesday 7 May


8:45am-12:30pm  –  Analysis and Synthesis

After an introduction and welcome by Alison and Dr Richard Groves, an ACEAS Advisory Panel member, the meeting commenced with a keynote by Prof. Mike Raupach who talked about ‘Synthesis in science and society’ and touched on the balance between specialisation and synthesis. This was followed by a plenary session chaired by Prof. Stephen Dovers which started with a summary of the international synthesis centre history by the ACEAS Facility Director, Alison Specht, and presentations by Dr Michael Vardon, the Director of the ABS Centre for Environment Statistics and Prof. Tony McMichael. This was followed by a lively discussion with the audience around the major issues and directions for the next 5 years, and the role of analysis and synthesis in this–and indeed who should be responsible.

1:30-5:00pm – Challenges of data management in synthesis projects

The afternoon contained nine fascinating presentations from ACEAS Working groups about their experiences of stages in the Data Workflow under the headings:

    • data identification and acquisition
    • data collation and blending / fit for purpose
    • data analysis and synthesis
    • data publication and visualisation.

This was followed by overview and summary of the key points by Andrew Treloar of ANDS), who observed that (among other things):

    • synthesis is likely to be constrained by the lowest quality dataset, and suitable data are often rare;
    • motivation is important to encourage data exchange, and use-tools can be a good incentive;
    • much data gets collected but much does not get published;
    • some data owners are reluctant to share data for understandable human issues;
    • hierarchical organisatonal structures can be incompatible with data sharing;
    • data can be hard to find if cited in paywall journals; but
    • you can answer new questions through access to more data.


Check out his tweets here.


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Thursday 8 May

9am-12:30pm  –  ACEAS Reflections

This morning started with a presentation by Prof. Richard Price and from the ACEAS team about some of the outcomes and achievements of the 'ACEAS experiment'. Richard and Dr Steve Cirk, conducted the ACEAS mid-term review (obtainable from the Products and Outcomes section of this web site). The Workshop participants then engaged in a participatory activity led by the team from RMCG conducting a socio-economic study of ACEAS. This session was chaired by Dr Richard Groves.


1:30-5:00pm – ACEAS group presentations

The afternoon contained fifteen fascinating series of presentations from ACEAS Working groups about their synthesis outcomes during the ACEAS process under the headings of water, biodiversity, land management and ecosystem data management. This was session was chaired by Dr Margaret Byrne, an ACEAS Working Group and TERN Board member.


5-9pm Thursday 8 May – ACEAS Colloquium

The ACEAS Colloquium started with refreshments and:

  • poster presentations (the Final Reports produced by most ACEAS groups), and
  • digital portal displays, including a launch by Dr Margo Neale of the National Museum of the Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge website.

This was followed by an Hypothetical, where science met decision-making: "CACE, the new Clean! – Abundant! – Cheap! – Exportable! energy resource for Australia . . . or maybe not" . . . led by Professor Nick Rowley. Great fun as well as informative. The Hypothetical can be watched here.



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Friday 9 May


9am-1pm  –  Where to from here?

This last session was the most intense in many ways, and was a wrap-up of the main points of the Workshop as seen by the participants. It was in the form of a Panel Session, with short talks and plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion. Mark Flanigan led the panel which consisted of Profs Bob Costanza, Michelle Waycott and Jeremy Russell-Smith who gave their perspectives of the two preceding days, and engaged in very active Q & A with the audience.

Plans for the main outcomes of the meeting were finalised in this session.


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The ACEAS Grand Workshop 2014

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 September 2015 02:48