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When a (science) plan comes together …

"The challenges facing SAEON require growing financial support; moreover, insightful minds are required to address those challenges. The second SAEON Summit will provide an opportunity for such minds to meet and contribute to the further development of long-term environmental observations in South Africa." - Johan Pauw, Managing Director, SAEON

Prof Tim O’Connor, SAEON’s Observation Science Specialist, accepted the challenge to put SAEON’s Science Plan together, which has now been published as Understanding Environmental Change in Complex Systems - SAEON Core Science Framework.

Stakeholder involvement and consultation is a necessary element of SAEON due to the complexities of its subject matter and design.

- Johan Pauw, Managing Director, SAEON

 

Work on SAEON’s Core Science Framework started in 1998 when an Interim Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Steering Committee was established in South Africa with a view to arranging an International LTER Symposium and National Workshop.

The meetings were held with great success at Skukuza in 1999 and resulted in a mandate for an LTER initiative for South Africa. The workshop developed some pointers for the science and business models and priority sites for the LTER initiative which, in essence, was an adaptation of the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) of Canada, it being a network of organisations performing long-term ecological research for government, and coordinated by a national office.

A subsequent paper by Van Jaarsveld and Biggs (2000) summarised the meeting outcomes and placed emphasis on a matrix of ecosystem drivers and response mechanisms to form the general framework of SAEON research. In 2004 an internal SAEON document entitled "Design of SAEON", initiated by the SAEON Technical Steering Committee with RJ Scholes as the lead author, was endorsed by the SAEON Advisory Board. This established the nodal structure of SAEON.

SAEON Core Science Plan

The first SAEON Summit was held in Pretoria in 2006 and included a wide range of review papers, some of which was published in South African Journal of Science. One of the workshops focused on the environmental observation function of SAEON and further elaborated on the Van Jaarsveld and Biggs (2000) paper. The workshop called for the development of a SAEON Core Science Plan to guide the development of SAEON science.

Prof Tim O’Connor, SAEON’s Observation Science Specialist, then accepted the challenge to put the ‘Plan’ together, which has now been published as "Understanding Environmental Change in Complex Systems - SAEON Core Science Framework", as reported in this newsletter . The work resulted in a number of versions which were refined iteratively after receiving comment from SAEON scientists and stakeholders.

It may thus be said that it took almost a decade to move from the original ideas of SAEON science to the current status of having published the Core Science Framework, and that various authors and scientists were involved in delivering the product as it stands today. If anything, this reflects the amount of conceptualisation and deliberation required to establish a solid base for a comprehensive organisation expected to deliver sound scientific products relevant to environmental governance and sustainable development in South Africa.

Second SAEON Summit

The announcement of the publication of the Core Science Framework in this issue accompanies the announcement of the second SAEON Summit , which will be held in October.

A golden thread runs through all the landmark events of SAEON’s continued development and will be extended via the second SAEON Summit. This golden thread is one of stakeholder involvement and consultation which is a necessary element of SAEON due to the complexities of its subject matter and design.

The challenges facing SAEON require growing financial support; moreover, insightful minds are required to address those challenges. The second SAEON Summit will provide an opportunity for such minds to meet and contribute to the further development of long-term environmental observations in South Africa.

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