Published: March 13, 2017

MSU’s Jack Liu recognized for contributions to sustainability

Contact(s): Sue Nichols Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability office: (517) 432-0206

Jianguo “Jack” Liu, director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, has been recognized by the Ecological Society of America for writing “the greatest contribution” to sustainability science that integrates ecological and social sciences.

Liu and his colleagues will receive the Sustainability Science Award at the society’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon this August for their paper, “Systems Integration for Global Sustainability.”

“Our work was driven by a collective effort to make sustainability research more relevant, effective and accessible,” Liu said. “This recognition is especially meaningful because the paper title captures the three keywords in the name of Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, reflecting MSU’s exceptional vision and long-term commitment to supporting the systems approach and the center."

In order to meet growing global challenges, the authors paint a new paradigm of research that crosses boundaries among natural and social science disciplines, as well as other disciplines such as engineering and medical sciences. They stress that scientific advances and effective policies must be integrated, and engagement between researchers and stakeholders is critical.

“The real world is integrated,” Liu said. “Artificially breaking down the real world into separate pieces has caused many global problems. Solving these problems requires systems integration – holistic approaches to integrate various pieces of the real world at different organizational levels, across space and over time.”

Appearing in Science Magazine in February 2015, the paper claims that disciplinary approaches to crises like air pollution, biodiversity loss, energy and water shortages, climate change and food insecurity are ineffective and can lead to unintended consequences.

“It’s really gratifying to have this approach to understanding sustainability validated by such an esteemed group of scientists,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “Joining disciplines to reveal better ways to make sense of a complicated, fast-moving world—and getting that information to the people who can use it—will be key to sustainable solutions. We are pleased to continue helping lead that effort.”

Sharing the award with Liu are Harold Mooney of Stanford University; Vanessa Hull, former MSU CSIS student currently at the University of Florida; Steven Davis of the University of California – Irvine; Joanne Gaskell of the World Bank; Thomas Hertel of Purdue University; Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University; Karen Seto of Yale University; Peter Gleick of The Pacific Institute; Claire Kremen of University of California, Berkeley; and Shuxin Li, also of MSU CSIS.

Jianguo “Jack” Liu, director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. Photo courtesy of MSU's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.