Heads of research and education institutions underline need of crossing science boundaries

SP-04 The IUFRO Director’s Forum: Crossing Science Boundaries for Benefit of Forests and People

Leading research managers from around the world met Monday at the IUFRO World Congress to discuss challenges in forest science.

The IUFRO Directors’ Forum is an initiative of IUFRO Research Group 9.02.00 “Management of Forest Research” that brings together heads of forest research institutes and deans of forest faculties, and provides a platform for the exchange and development of views on the management of forest research.

Peter Mayer, director of the Austria Research Centre for Forests, moderates a sub-plenary session at the IUFRO World Congress in Salt Lake City.
Peter Mayer, director of the Austria Research Centre for Forests, moderates a sub-plenary session at the IUFRO World Congress in Salt Lake City.

The research landscape and the policy agenda dealing with forest research are becoming increasingly fragmented. Many forest-focused research institutions have been merged into institutions dealing with broader themes. To help deal with this challenge, the Forum discussed how to maintain the relevance of forest-focused research institutions in the coming decade.

Jim Reaves, Deputy Chief for Research and Development, US Forest Service, presented a survey carried out by the IUFRO Directors’ Forum aimed at heads and directors of IUFRO member organizations in spring 2014. This survey indicated about one third of the respondents were new to their positions within the last ten years. These new respondents’ expertise seems to reflect an expanded scope by these institutions beyond forest research towards broader research priorities or a shift from applied science to general science. It is clear that external trends and drivers for new forest-related research priorities are gaining importance.

Björn Hånell, Coordinator of IUFRO Division 1 – Silviculture, gave a brief overview of major research challenges from an IUFRO perspective, putting major societal developments in relation with the five new themes guiding the IUFRO Strategy, ranging from “Forests for People” to Forest, Soil and Water Interactions. It became clear the challenges being faced are far bigger than current forest research management can overcome. Thus, the IUFRO strategy challenges individual IUFRO Divisions to work across their disciplinary boundaries.

Other key issues and conclusions from the forum:

  • Forests can no longer be viewed in isolation but rather as systems that are interconnected with other environmental or human systems.
  • The grand challenges faced by the forest community require integrated networks of scientists to gain comprehension of these complex systems in all their multi-temporal and multi-dimensional complexity. Therefore, there is a need in forest research to bring together as many disciplines as possible, among them the social sciences, to solve these highly complex issues.
  • IUFRO is a unique platform offering forest research managers and forest researchers the opportunity to learn from each other and exchange their respective experiences. Other important sectors lack similar platforms.
  • With its new strategy, IUFRO recognizes the need to bring together scientists from diverse fields to work on cross-cutting issues.
  • Particular emphasis will be placed on identifying and engaging scientific partners from outside IUFRO, while at the same time promoting participation of IUFRO scientists in activities of other scientific organizations.
  • Change is happening at an accelerated pace, therefore business as usual will not be sufficient.

Session Information

  • Directors’ Forum 2014 – Crossing Science boundaries for the benefit of Forests and People
  • Monday, October 6, 1:30 – 3 p.m., Room 251 A-C
  • Organizers
  • Konstantin von Teuffel, Director, Baden-Wurttemberg Forest Research Institute FVA, Chair of the Directors’ Forum
  • Jim Reaves, Deputy Chief for Research and Development, US Forest Service, Co-Chair of the Directors’ Forum
  • Peter Mayer, Director, Austrian Forest Research Institute BFW, Co-Chair of the Directors’ Forum


  • Ann Bartuska, Deputy UndersSecretary for Research, Education and Economics, US Department of Agriculture on Social relevance of forest research
  • Martin Apple, President Emeritus, Council of Scientific Societies on Disciplinary research to solve complex challenges
  • Leena Paavilainen, Director General, Finnish Forest Research Institute Metla on Experiences from an institution undergoing major changes
  • Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Center ICRAF on Investing into integrated approaches


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