The Role of Digital Technologies in Responding to the Grand Challenges of the Natural Environment: The Windermere Accord

Gordon S. Blair*, Richard Bassett, Lucy Bastin, Lindsay Beevers, Maribel Isabel Borrajo, Mike Brown, Sarah L. Dance, Ada Dionescu, Liz Edwards, Maria Angela Ferrario, Rob Fraser, Harriet Fraser, Simon Gardner, Peter Henrys, Tony Hey, Stuart Homann, Chantal Huijbers, James Hutchison, Phil Jonathan, Rob LambSophie Laurie, Amber Leeson, David Leslie, Malcolm McMillan, Vatsala Nundloll, Oluwole Oyebamiji, Jordan Phillipson, Vicky Pope, Rachel Prudden, Stefan Reis, Maria Salama, Faiza Samreen, Dino Sejdinovic, Will Simm, Roger Street, Lauren Thornton, Ross Towe, Joshua Vande Hey, Massimo Vieno, Joanne Waller, John Watkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Abstract

Digital technology is having a major impact on many areas of society, and there is equal opportunity for impact on science. This is particularly true in the environmental sciences as we seek to understand the complexities of the natural environment under climate change. This perspective presents the outcomes of a summit in this area, a unique cross-disciplinary gathering bringing together environmental scientists, data scientists, computer scientists, social scientists, and representatives of the creative arts. The key output of this workshop is an agreed vision in the form of a framework and associated roadmap, captured in the Windermere Accord. This accord envisions a new kind of environmental science underpinned by unprecedented amounts of data, with technological advances leading to breakthroughs in taming uncertainty and complexity, and also supporting openness, transparency, and reproducibility in science. The perspective also includes a call to build an international community working in this important area. Digital technology is having a major impact on many areas of society, and there is equal opportunity for impact on science in addressing grand scientific challenges. This is particularly true in the environmental sciences as we seek to understand the complexities of the natural environment under climate change. This perspective reports on the outcomes from a summit in this area, attended by 42 researchers selected as leading experts operating at the interface between digital technology and the environmental sciences. The key output of this workshop was the Windermere Accord, a collective statement around what is required to achieve a transformative effect through digital technology based around four key pillars of investigation, namely using technology to tame uncertainty; growing advocates and champions to enable, empower, and influence; embracing a new open and transparent style of science; and enabling integration and sophisticated treatment of feedbacks in complex environmental systems. These pillars all feed into the decision-making processes and are supported by a growing community. Looking forward, the accord also identified a pathway with particular emphasis on building an international, cross-disciplinary community to address the key challenges and achieve the real opportunities around digital technology and the environment. This perspective presents the outputs of a summit in the area of how digital technology can help us respond to the grand challenges of environmental change. The resultant Windermere Accord contains a framework and associated roadmap, envisioning a new kind of environmental science underpinned by unprecedented amounts of data, with technological advances leading to breakthroughs in taming uncertainty and complexity, and also supporting openness, transparency, and reproducibility in science.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100156
Number of pages8
JournalPatterns
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 08 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is partially supported by the DT/LWEC Senior Fellowship (awarded to G.B.) in the Role of Digital Technology in Understanding, Mitigating and Adapting to Environmental Change, EPSRC: EP/P002285/1, and by the greater Ensemble research programme. The authors would also like to thank Dee Hennessy (Creative Exchange) and Steve Cross (Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow) for their creativity and energy in facilitating the workshop and steering us toward an energizing conclusion. The summit was held in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with the venue being located on the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest lake in the Lake District, UK (with the Lake District recently being awarded UNESCO World heritage Status). We thank our hosts for providing such an inspiring venue for our deliberations, one where we were constantly reminded of the wonders of the natural environment. Both G.B. and T.H. are on the advisory board of Patterns. The authors declare no other competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • data science
  • digital environment
  • digital technologies
  • DSML 1: Concept: Basic principles of a new data science output observed and reported
  • environmental science
  • climate action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)

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