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Science and Policy Impact: Maria Ivanova Appointed to the World Climate Research Programme Joint Scientific Committee

Danielle Bilotta | Mon Feb 1, 2021

Director of UMass Boston’s Center for Governance and Sustainability and McCormack Graduate School Associate Professor Maria Ivanova has been appointed for a four-year term to the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Joint Scientific Committee (JSC). WCRP facilitates and coordinates international climate science research, and JSC leads the scientific direction of the programme.  

This is the first time since WCRP was established in 1980 that it made a membership call specifically for social and economic scientists as part of its new strategic plan. The competitive membership selection process was made by the World Meteorological Organization, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, and the International Science Council, which are the three co-sponsors of WCRP. Ivanova, who was nominated by the International Science Council, and Roberto Sanchez Rodriquez, a professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Mexico, were selected from over 130 applicants to join the 18-person committee. 

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the main science body in the international climate landscape, and WCRP runs the climate scenarios for the IPCC,” Ivanova said. “Now for the first time, they are bringing in two social science people.” 

Ivanova says the ultimate goal of the program is to help tackle climate change, and while natural sciences can tell us what to do, social sciences help us determine how to do it.  

“It is social science that helps integrate these visions into the values and the priorities of people around the world at the various levels of governance, from the local to the global,” Ivanova said. “WCRP and JSC recognize that these visions have to be implemented and translated into actions and for that, we need to affect the behavior of people. That’s where social sciences are absolutely critical.”  

“I commend and congratulate Dr. Ivanova on her appointment to this prestigious international organization on the forefront of addressing one of world’s most critical and vexing problems,” said Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco. “Her representation on the committee demonstrates UMass Boston’s leading role in combatting climate change.”  

Memberships on the committees are volunteer-based, and Ivanova says the program’s work is developed through various partnerships and then shared by WCRP to apply the climate knowledge that will contribute to societal well-being. 

“Scientists are doing this work because it’s the right thing to do for the global good and for collective action,” Ivanova said. “It takes people who value solidarity and who recognize that science should be advanced collectively.”  

Ivanova says she is looking forward to engaging with the committee’s science policy and transdisciplinary work while questioning the status quo in order to challenge herself and the committee to purposely think about how to communicate their scientific endeavors and make a difference in social behavior.  

“I’m proudly a scholar-activist because I think scholars should not only say what is and why, but we have to be courageous and say what should be done about it,” she said. “I’m deeply humbled by this appointment because this is one of the most prestigious climate science research organizations with scientists that contribute to [climate change] scenarios that governments then decide on.” 

Ivanova hopes to integrate her work on the committee with her work with doctoral students through the UMass Boston PhD programs and undergraduate students taking accelerated masters programs and graduate classes, she said. 

"In the global governance and human security PhD program, we now have 60 students and 19 alumni from 26 different countries. That kind of wealth of knowledge and expertise is something that I bring to the WCRP programme, and then I bring that program to the group of students. I would be delighted to have some of these outward-looking communications and ask the students, how do you react?” she said. “I look forward to engaging the richness of the UMass Boston community with the richness of this world scientific community on resolving climate change.”