Putting urban science to work (2/6)

Putting urban science to work (2/6)


MONICA CONTESTABILE: It’s my pleasure to introduce the first panelist. It’s the right honorable Arron Wood, who is the Deputy Lord Mayor for the City of Melbourne. Please join us. And then, we have Professor Xuemei Bai from Australian National University and Professor Michele Acuto from Melbourne University. So what we’re going to discuss today is the challenges and opportunities of building a stronger interface between policy and urban science. The speakers are going to introduce and share their thoughts with you, talking 10 minutes each possibly. And then, we’re going to have time for some questions, interpanel discussion and question with the audience. We thought initially that we wanted to keep this session as interactive as possible. And therefore, we wanted to throw some general questions at the audience before they start talking so that you can start thinking about what you want to ask them. So questions like, do you think science is important for decision making? Is science being used in decision making in your city? What kind of science do we need in today’s cities? And what are the best science policy practices, and what are the blind spots? So this is just to keep you thinking while the panelists start their speech. And with no further delay, as we’re running out of time, Arron, please, the floor is yours. ARRON WOOD: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Hello. Excellent. Thank you for that warm round of applause, but I’m going to ask you to do it again because what we want to do is that this Springer Nature Conference is, I think, the most important conference of the World Cities Summit. Let’s be honest here, people. So what we want to do is just fire right up. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. We’d like to do that because everyone out in the hall there just having a quiet coffee is thinking something amazing is happening inside. We must get in there. So thank you very much for having me, and thanks again to Springer Nature for bringing me out to Singapore, who I have huge admiration for. Their urban forest strategy in doubling the density of their city and also at the same time doubling the coverage of their urban forest is something we all aspire to. Their 3D data tool, their city mapping tool, again really sets the bar high for best use of technology and data In responding to city challenges. So it’s a pleasure to be here on behalf of City of Melbourne. Mine’s going to be a mix of sort of science in the city melded with the smart city conversation. And we certainly don’t have all the answers, and I think we’re probably a good snapshot of where a lot of cities are at– that we make good use of science to a point, but we’re definitely not sort of hand in glove with our scientific community in spite of the fact that we have 10 universities just in the central City of Melbourne. So for those of you who don’t know, City of Melbourne is just the 38 square kilometers in the heart of the city, including the CBD. We’re the fastest-growing city in Australia, and we round out the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the OECD. And the greater metro Melbourne is just ticking over to a population of 5 million people. So rapid growth brings huge opportunities, but also massive challenges that lots of cities around the world are facing. We’re the most liberal city seven times in a row. So I never tire of saying that, but that’s judged by the Economist magazine and it’s a great city ranking that we proudly support. However, when you look at the sustainability index, the sustainable cities ranking, Melbourne sits about 33 or 34. So that’s primarily because of the dependence of Australia on brown coal. So what we want to do is we want to keep that livability up where it is, or at least in the sort of top three, but then start to bring our sustainability ranking up as well because, if you’re not one of the most sustainable cities, then being one of the most liveable cities is really a time-based term. It’s really only a matter of time before you start to slip down the livability rankings if sustainability is not absolutely core business in everything that you do. We’ve been recognized as a global knowledge city. An Intelligent Cities Award last year really looked at how we’re using data across the city to inform policy. But apart from all of those accolades, there’s still some real knowledge gaps. So I’m going to zone in on probably two or three case studies where we’ve seen science working really well. But then, there are still some gaps in that knowledge. And really, that’s a callout, then, to the scientific community and to local government as to how we can fill those knowledge gaps, but how we can better clarify the questions that cities are asking and also deploy that research much more quickly and have actionable research that can be implemented and then analyzed with the city as a lab. So one of the enduring strengths of Melbourne is that we’re curious all the time. We’re asking questions all the time. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to what other cities are doing. And not just cities in Australia, but our membership of the C40 Cities Network, of 100 Resilient Cities, of [INAUDIBLE] show that we have a real appetite to partner with just about any network that allows us to share data, to share case studies, and to share intelligence on those sorts of challenges that are facing us. So I’m just going to quickly walk through a lot of the things we’re doing because I’m not going to go into detail because of the time available. We have Talking Tanks, where we have a network of stormwater harvesting across the city that captures stormwater for use on our parks and gardens but is also there for flood mitigation. And the technical sort of attribute to that is, when a storm event comes in, it gathers data from the Bureau of Meteorology, and those tanks can be emptied to mitigate flash flooding. We’ve got City Lab, as I said, which is an area of physical space, but also an online space where our community can prototype and test new ideas. We’ve got an Innovation District, which takes in our two largest universities in RMIT and University of Melbourne– my old university– where we’re really sort of testing the latest in inbuilt sensors, monitoring programs, autonomous vehicles, and so on. We’ve got a city data center, which we’ve just prototyped during Knowledge Week, which is 3D-printed model– only of Swanston straight at the moment which is the main city spine, but we overlay that then with digital data like our 3D development activity monitor that shows buildings that are under application, buildings that have been approved, and buildings that are under construction. So we can start to get a visual of what our city might mean. But then, you can actually fly down even further and take an augmented reality– or virtual reality walk, I should say– through our Green Laneways program and get a handle on what those laneways will look like into the future as we green them even further. As I said, we’ve got 10 universities just in the central city. So we’re a true university town, and we’ve got lots of different partnerships, indeed, with Melbourne School of Design and University of Melbourne, but all of our universities. We co-fund a professorial chair in resilience as part of 100 Resilient Cities Network, and that’s a 50/50 funding split between the City of Melbourne and the University of Melbourne. So all of those things are great. Now, what are some of the gaps that we have? We have science-based targets for our climate strategy, our zero net emissions strategy. And we were one of the first city governments to move to implementation of science-based targets for our carbon disclosure reporting. And we’re working with C40 all the time in terms of using those as case studies for our five-year emissions reduction plan. We wanted to show our leadership on climate policy by publicly committing to a science-based emission reduction target of 4.5% per year, and this level of emissions reduction is the one that’s internationally recognized to keep our temperature rise between 1.5 and 2 degrees by 2050. Following on from initiation of that commitment to adopt the science-based targets, we’re talking about the recently-announced Edmonton Declaration. So this is a call to action. Many of you may have heard of it, the research communities to truly consider the role of science, technology, and data in supporting their bold climate action plan. So it was launched in March 2018 at the Cities IPCC conference in Edmonton, and we’re really asking global mayors to sign the Declaration and amplify the message that cities urgently need the tools and data to address climate change. So we’re pretty lucky. We’ve got a councilor on our council, Dr. Cathy Oak, who is now vice president of [INAUDIBLE] She’s got a real push on the better use of research in cities, and it must be designed with cities so that the data is actionable and usable. As I said, we also fund the resilient cities professorial chair. So our first case study is the urban forest strategy. We, like Singapore, have a very ambitious urban forest strategy to double the forest canopy cover over the next 20 years, from what is around about 22% to up over 40%. And absolutely, that’s about cooling our city by 4 degrees because the urban heat island effect in our city is not just about the environment and the amenity of the city. It’s got huge health impacts. So in the Black Saturday bushfires, about 176 lives were tragically lost. But in the two weeks leading up to those bushfires, over 370 lives were lost due to heat-related illness and stress, particularly in the very young or the very old or those with pre-existing conditions. So for us, the urban forest strategy, yes, it’s about making the city look good, but it’s absolutely our first defense against the urban heat island effect. And the other part of this, too, is it has a huge economic impact. We surveyed our retail businesses alone back in 2014– 2016, rather. There was a heatwave where we had a week over 40 degrees. They were losing close to $10 million a day in lost revenue because people don’t want to come into the city and spend money when you’ve got weather like that. So economic impact, big health impact, definitely environmental impact, and even a social civil unrest impact in that what police assaults show– what assaults show in terms of police numbers– is that, as soon as the temperature climbs over 40 degrees, people start getting a little bit crazy. So for us, it’s a very important thing to tackle. It’s good that, when I did my degree in forest science at the Melbourne University, my name was Arron Wood. [LAUGHTER] In my year level– and I kid you not about this– there was a girl called Linda Field, a guy called Rob Plant. There was Virginia Forest and Ben Woodman. And now, I work with my fellow councilor, Cathy Oak, and the head of the urban forest was Ian Shears. So we’re very big on the urban forest for us. So greening our city involves a lot of science. It involves the science of trees. And in fact, we’ve brought citizen science into that, where a lot of our population now help us in monitoring the health of those trees. We’ve got the Urban Forest Visual, where you can click on each individual tree. You can know the life expectancy of that tree– of the 77,000 trees that we manage– the species, and you can participate in a conversation about the sort of urban forest that you want to see into the future as well. So there’s definitely an engagement tool there. We take that much further then. and we have our biannual BioBlitz. So this is about monitoring the biodiversity health of our city. And that then informs how we plant our parks and gardens and our streetscapes into the future. And what that showed us is that we are underdone in terms of understory. So it is about gathering the data, getting that into a usable form, flowing that through to policy. And then, on-the-ground implementation is critical, but ongoing monitoring so that we’re constantly adapting to what is a changing environment and changing climate conditions is something that we can all do together. So BioBlitz in 2016, 744 members of the public participated, 27 activities across the 24 hours. 447 different species of plants, animals, and fungi. So it really is a critical sort of snapshot for us in time We do a HollowBlitz as well because we know how important hollows are for us. And this is where one of the gaps have started to arise. Many old exotic trees such as elms and plane trees form hollows suitably sized for wildlife, but virtually nothing is known about the science about which birds successfully nest in these hollows in Australia. Plenty is known about native tree hollows, but not those hollows which are actually formed in exotic trees. So again, having that policy or that database to inform good policy is just not there. Today, our urban forest is dominated by a range of three species– elms, plane trees, and river red gums. And many of these trees have predicted life expectancy of less than 10 years. Going through the millennium drought, where we went close to running out of water– similar to Cape Town, what Cape Town is going through at the moment– and that’s where the urban forest strategy came from is that we’re looking at losing 40% of our 77,000 street trees in the City. So again, the science of what species are going to survive into the future is extremely strong in partnership with our universities, and we literally trial those tree species in real-world conditions. So one of the other summations about the use of science in cities and making it relevant is that, wherever possible, is trialing that science in real-world conditions out there in the sort of conditions that they’ll be faced with is absolutely critical. So they are just a couple of snapshots on how science informs what we do. And just a few things that I’ve learnt over the journey. I actually chaired the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne, so I still have strong links to the research community. But I’m now in that position of implementing or deciding on policy and then, hopefully, seeing that through the implementation. So here is just a few learnings that I’ve identified. We need to clarify the gaps in knowledge together with researchers. So the questions need to be clarified with the people that will be on the ground implementing it and with the policymakers as well. Cofunding of professorial chairs in areas that may not be sort of prominent already I think is a good move. Obviously, the example with the chair in resilience has been a really partnership approach to linking research and real-world application. Speeding up less-than-perfect research timelines– so deploying that research a little bit earlier in the lifecycle, getting it out there, and making sure it’s actionable at the end of the research period or preferably during the research period so that we’re constantly learning throughout it. Real-world research trials set up in real-world conditions, again in partnership with policymakers and implementers. And obviously, deploying that research much more rapidly would definitely suit the sort of timelines that we’re looking at for implementation. But overall, science and data, we’ve got an open data policy where we release about 50 data sets a year, and we put it out there to the community at large to then come back to us with solutions because I think one of the greatest mistakes that local government– well, actually all levels of government– make is thinking that we have all the answers. So this has to be a partnership approach with the complexity, depth, breadth of problems that we’re facing at the moment. And we absolutely welcome a much deeper partnership with the research community to drive fantastic outcomes for our cities into the future. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] XUEMEI BAI: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us this morning. And before I start, I would really like to thank the organizers for hosting this wonderful event. And I’m working on cities. So for me, there’s nothing in the world that are more important than the topic that we are discussing today. So I think coming back to the thesis we are given, what is the state of the art in urban science and how can cities put existing knowledge into sustainable solutions today, I was just thinking about the challenge of trying to provide a sort of overview of urban science. I have a quick question. How many web of science paper that are mentioning urban over the last decade you think? Give me a number. How many do you think there are? Anybody? AUDIENCE: Thousands. XUEMEI BAI: Thousands. Any other numbers? AUDIENCE: 1,000. XUEMEI BAI: 1,000. Any other numbers? A bit more brave. So we did this count in April, actually, for a paper we are doing for Nature and Sustainability. There was 163,000 papers, peer-reviewed papers, over the last decade alone. And it’s only including web of science peer-reviewed papers, and about 25,000 of them are about urban sustainability. So you can see this is a really, really flourishing blooming sort of community. And this doesn’t even include all the books, the book chapters, and then all the great literature so-called that practitioners and other researchers are putting out there. So I should say any attempt to try to say, OK, here’s the state of art, you’re basically shooting your own foot. Whatever you say, there will be other communities coming up and saying no, no. There are this more and many different things. But having said that, I would like to really emphasize three points here today. The first one is the increasing need and attempt towards a better integration of knowledge production, which is a systems approach in building the urban science. And we know there are many different conceptual frameworks, different theories, different disciplinary approaches into studying cities. And they all have different communities behind them, but what is really needed is to have a more systematic approach both in terms of research and urban practice. And this can go a bit abstract, but I’ll try to give you two examples. One is we are talking a lot about taking ecosystem approach in cities, and we have heard the Melbourne project about bringing in more forest into the city and also building infrastructure for flood control and things like that. And if you look at these sort of gray or peer-reviewed literature, many attempts to try to bring more vegetation into cities are branded as green. And anything that tries to improve urban water and things like that are branded as blue. And anything that is more traditional sort of infrastructure and engineering approach is dubbed as gray. But taking a systems approach would mean not seeing this as blue, green, and gray and branding them as such, but more like seeing them as a kaleidoscope. So it’s a mixture of all these things. And then, if you are trying to integrate all this blue and green seriously into urban structure, then you have to really think about what are the opportunities, what are potentials, what are the constraints and limitations, and whether these sort of projects are scalable at all. So they have to be put into that kind of reality, into the context, if we are really trying to promote this ecosystem approach in cities really seriously. And also, taking ecosystem approach in the context of systems approach is much more than integrating nature into cities. It is really about seeing cities as a complex system that are human dominant and try to manage these cities as such. And I had a short article just came out last week, last Thursday, in Nature, which is entitled “Advanced Ecosystem Approach in Cities.” So if you’re interested in this topic, you can take a look at that one. Another example I would like to give is in climate mitigation and adaptation in cities. And we all know, very often both research and practice in cities when we talk about climate change, they are approached in different ways. I mean, one is mitigation, one is adaptation. And decisions are made differently, and policymaking are very often made independently. But actually, in reality, lots of these well-intended policies that are made independently, they actually compound each other. And very often, they contradict each other even. So what is important is try to really identify what are some of the trade-offs and what are the core benefits that you can really seek out. And find out the synergies and try to maximize them, which is really important. And also, taking systems approach in climate change in cities is also about trying to put this climate change adaptation and mitigation into the context of the cities. For example, if we look at developing country cities, we know that they are facing lots of different issues, and climate change is just one of the problems that they are facing. So you have to look at this in this sort of context rather than old funding of just going to climate mitigation or climate adaptation. You cannot really ignore all the other issues cities are facing. So this is really leading me to my second point, which is the need for building up a better urban science in Global South, and this is really building on a paper that’s coming up in Nature and Sustainability next Monday. I think it’s called “The Urban South and the Predicament of Global Sustainability.” And if you’re interested, you can take a look. It will be open access for a month thanks to Monica. So we talk about organization as one of the biggest social challenges of our time today. But if we look at it really carefully, it’s actually urban challenges in the Global South. Because, if you look at the population prediction alone, they say we will be having about 2.4, 2.3 billion more people added into the world, but 90% of older population will be actually added into cities in developing countries. So the great urban challenge actually is the great urban challenge in the Global South, but this is very seldom explicitly spelled out in this way. And the challenges that are facing cities in the Global South and Global North, they are very, very different. And we have tried to show statistically how different they are and why. And apparently, we need a much better knowledge to understand these challenges in the Global South. But then, if we look at the global knowledge production system, it’s heavily, heavily dominated by the Global North. So we did a interesting exercise, tried to see what are some of the best-cited papers in urban or urban sustainability area. And we had this really stunning result. Almost all of them, with the exception of one or two papers, are led by authors in the Global North. So you can see how the Global Northern perspective are really actually dominating the discourse of urban science. And that also means that the power to shape some of the policy initiatives and things like that, and they are all based in studies in the Global North. And another thing is that even studies that are focusing on the Global South, they are again dominated by authors from the Global North. And then, if you are working on developing country cities, the unfortunate reality is that your paper is much less likely to be cited in the literature. I think if you’re working in the Global North, you are more than two times likely to be cited. We did this analysis in this particular paper. And a point I would like to highlight here is that this is much, much more than talking about the power game or fairness or not. But in the scientific community, actually this has a very strong practical and policy implications. Because the problems in Global South and North are so different, if all our knowledge is based on the empirical and theoretical construction based on the Global North, they cannot really readily apply it in the cities in the Global South, let alone try to guide the practice in the Global South. So this is not really only about scientific community issue, but this has really strong sustainability implications. So that’s the second point I would like to make. And then, the last point I’d like to make is that the need for science tests and stakeholders are really, really trying to work together and try to co-design and co-produce this urban knowledge. We have noticed a shift over the past decade or so. We did a review paper last year. And there was a shift in the literature from trying to understand the impact of rapid urbanization towards understanding the underlying mechanism and processes that are actually shaping this kind of impact and then further towards finding solutions. Now, people are trying to ask what science or what ecology or urban sociology can do for cities. So these are really the state-of-the-art, front-running, cutting-edge kind of questions. And, of course, there are still many, many fundamental questions that need to be asked and answered trying to understand urban systems, but there is also equally important demand to try to come up with solutions that are really addressing the problems cities are facing. And the solution needs to be really actionable. I mean, it needs to go one step away or ahead from a purely academic sort of exercise. So when we are talking about this co-design and co-production, which is sort of a buzzword in today’s sustainability community, we have to acknowledge there are challenges. I mean, we cannot really just to romanticize this word of co-production and co-design because, to begin with, there are different scales of consideration. For example, at some point a mayor told me, if you cannot give me answers in 15 minutes what I should be doing with my $10 million decision, then you’re basically out of my scope. But for researchers, coming up with an answer in 10 minutes or 15 minutes, it’s almost impossible. Usually, you say, oh, let me go back, and then let me do some literature review and do some analysis. And that would take one year to three, or even five years. So basically, there is this very strong disconnection between science and policy, but we do need to bridge this in order to find solutions. And from academic point of view, we also need to probably build up incentives beyond the traditional academic incentives, like your published peer-reviewed papers and things like that. But equally, we need to recognize those who are trying to engage with practitioners with the city and then try to come up with the real-world solutions. So I will leave it there. MONICA CONTESTABILE: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Michele. MICHELE ACUTO: I see that everyone stands. I’ll stand as well. Thanks a million for the chance to share a few things. I think my role in the– all Australian panel, by the way– my role is reporting on the current initiative that Nature and Sustainability has been leading on. It’s an international expert panel. I’m one of the three co-chairs of that, along with my colleagues Karen Seto from Yale University and Susan Parnell from the University of Cape Town. And it’s an international expert panel on science and the future of cities. So the brief, or the task, was to share a few ideas that are coming out of that effort. And I guess the rationale for doing that is pointing out a few things that sort of might not be as obvious as we make them. So the international expert panel is a group– and Xuemei is one of the members– of 30 leading scholars. It’s not nice to call yourself an expert, so I say a variety of leading scholars on urban issues. We’re talking all sorts of things, from engineering and digital expertise like [INAUDIBLE] at MIT, arts and humanities– Richard Sennett at the LSE and NYU– our colleague [INAUDIBLE] Ravi at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and so forth. So that was born effectively, and you might not know this– I’m always fairly surprised by the lack of attention for a large United Nations process. But in fact, a number of people– like Xuemei, like myself, like many others– around the establishment of the United Nations New Urban Agenda and, in fact, around the establishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals had written quite a lot of advocacy pieces, effectively, in Nature. Dare I say Science? I apologize for saying Science in a Springer event. [LAUGHTER] In leading academic outputs. And the advocacy pieces were effectively about the lack and poverty to a degree of the sort of science policy interface that Arron and Xuemei were talking about. The fact that, for all the great grand promises of urbanization and the great grand promises of urban science and urban research, we are not doing a great job at connecting effectively science and policy. So the reason why I say that is not just to flag an initiative, but also to flag that science in itself is not just the provisioning of data. Science and urban science and urban research is also a form of advocacy, a form of making statements about the world, the urban world we live in. So what happened is that we sat down. We thought this was worthy of attention, even though the United Nations eventually decided not to go ahead with an intergovernmental panel on urban sustainability or on cities. We decided to take it on ourselves to try and gather a bit of the science and the state of affairs– shooting ourselves in the foot, like Xuemei suggested– in trying to condense that knowledge about cities and in particular about the science policy interface about cities. Now, the report of that panel comes out later in October of this year at the UN World Data Forum, but a few things that sort of already are apparent and that have come out of conversations, interviews, discussions in London at the World Urban Forum, in Kuala Lumpur, and one on one with the various experts. And I think one of the things that I would like to start with is, when you put 30 experts from very different disciplines in a room numerous times, one of the things you learn is, in fact, again, the science isn’t just that advocacy. It is, in fact, also disagreement. Perhaps facetiously or not, you might need two Watsons, not one Watson, to do a proper scientific job in the sense that it’s almost impossible to get 30 experts even from akin disciplines to always agree on matters. And that’s one of the great things of science, that there is capacity for revision and rethinking and criticizing and peer reviewing each other and so forth. Something else that clearly stands out for us is the gaps and imbalances of science. That, even if we were to digitalized and AI-ize the research and processing of scientific data, the data available at the moment is fairly unbalanced. It’s fairly unbalanced, for instance, in the sense the data about governance, participation, legislation in cities is almost entirely qualitative. Data about transport, education, and many others is almost entirely statistical. There’s very limited GIS, geolocated data about legislation, and there’s very limited qualitative appreciation of things like education in cities. So one of the problems that we see, for instance, is that the database is there. There are hundreds of thousands of papers and data sets available on cities. But they are fairly imbalanced on what they cover and what do we know of what. So, for instance, 43% of data globally in global data sets that covers cities covers Europe, yet we know really well that the bulk of urbanization is happening in Africa and Asia. So one of the key questions is we probably know more than we need to know about certain areas of the world and not enough about areas we should really know fast lots about. Something else that clearly stood out for us and stands out for us is that, in fact, for all that talks about the global and the planetary reality of urbanization, we actually have very, very limited global appreciation of urban processes. We tend to have a lot of comparative data. There are today our colleague Greg Clarke estimates in the range of 300 benchmarks and rankings of cities. But that’s very specific comparative data. There’s very limited globally-oriented data sets. So the classic number that everyone just tells you at every single conference that has something on cities is more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. But it’s one of the few numbers we have at a global scale that gives us an appreciation of the global experience of urbanization. So, for instance, we know that there are roughly 850, 860 million people living in urban settlements that are informal, but that’s about it. We don’t know trends. We don’t know implications of that. So clearly we need much more global urban science, not comparative or specific urban science. As Arron said, so I don’t have to do that job again, fundamental for us is the question of science policy experiments and experimentation of sharing the burden of the urban planet between the policy and the academe– in fact, the research in general, not just academe. And one of the key things there being, in fact, research is not just produced by universities, and we shouldn’t think of universities only. But experiments like, for instance, we do in Melbourne with the chair in resilient cities. Our fundamental– not just because we’re paying for a fantastic professor, Lars Coenen, who’s doing a brilliant job– but, in fact, because they open a two-way window between city hall and the university where it isn’t just Lars. It’s Lars and PhD students. It’s Lars and postdocs. It’s a continuous going back. And it was one of the things that attracted me to Melbourne, a continuous engagement back and forth between the city and the university. If you take the 250 largest cities globally, the distance between city hall and the closest university is four kilometers. That number in average goes up to six kilometers if you take the 400 largest cities globally. So in a sense, in reality there is a very limited distance to be breached there. And yet, it’s very often not breached and not effectively experimented with. So one of the things I was saying is, a, we need far more of these type of experiments– joint investments in a sense– and we need to learn from the South. Some of the best examples of this– for instance, the GCRO in Johannesburg, it’s the City Region Observatory for Johannesburg. It’s produced by the two largest universities in Johannesburg, the regional government, and the local government. It provides really accurate data even on extremely sensitive topics like mapping, geolocating, homophobia in the region of Johannesburg. It’s probably one of the best global examples of accurate, up-to-date, almost nearly real-time, and yearly-tracked trends that are policy relevant. So we need much more of those, and we need not to be afraid of going south to learn to do things north, eastwards, and so forth. And one of the things that is fundamental for us is it’s effectively just a question of creating greater scientific literacy in city leadership, in encouraging city leadership to be available to just ask the questions. Very often, we’ve learned, it’s not just a matter of cities asking for new data– and that happens all the time, commissioning new data sets– but, in fact, it’s just a question of asking whether a data set exists that is the key matter there. And to wrap it up on something that, again, seems obvious until we don’t grasp the size of it, the creation of evidence goes far beyond academe. Arron mentioned to C40 Climate Leadership Group. It’s one of the groups that we’ve been working on for quite some time together. It produces data. But there are more than 300 city networks today. There’s 18 new networks since 2000. 60% of city networks globally produce original research. This is to say that data is being produced by cities themselves and interpreted by cities themselves, and that’s not even starting with the fact that then the private sector produces extensive amount of data as well. So in a sense, there’s a need for greater experimentation there. One thing I’m going to leave it with is all of this is happening at the global level, and that’s partly where we started with the international expert panel. There’s been a reform, and there is a clear reform of the whole casing of the United Nations global urban governance, if you wish. So numerous bits of the United Nations now are rethinking their relationship with cities. And right now at this very moment, at the high-level political forum in New York, the discussion is in fact exactly on tracking and grasping what is the state of sustainability in cities according to SDG 11. So in a sense, the risk is always that we make this just a city story, that we forget that four kilometers down the road there is a reservoir of expertise, and that that dialogue is fundamental— not just at the city level, but on a global scale. Stay tuned. By October, we’ll give you a report on this. [APPLAUSE] MONICA CONTESTABILE: Thank you very much. I’d like to very briefly pick up a couple of points of all the presentations and allow all the panelists to share some thoughts, like two minutes each, and then open up to the floor for questions. So you covered a lot of ground. And obviously, I can’t summarize everything, but it looks like context matters for urban problems. And we need to look more at the South. We need to draw knowledge from the South. We need to understand that cities are different. The other thing picking on what you said, Arron, is that research– the turnaround of research is important. You need it fast to act on it. We need a system approach, so we need interdisciplinarity. That poses other challenges, bringing different experts together to agree, as Michele also pointed out. So how are we going to do this? It looks like at the core of this there is co-production. Each one of us has mentioned that. So I wonder whether you could share your views on what the real challenge is, the practical challenge is of doing this co-production to address all of those issues are? Two minutes each. ARRON WOOD: OK. Hello? Yep. Is that working? OK. Very quietly, is it? I’m not used to being quiet. I was always told to be quiet. [LAUGHTER] That’s why I’m a politician, I guess. So I’ll add into that the multidisciplinary aspect of research. So a lot of city problems are holistic by nature. So it’s great to get a piece of research which is focused on a quite specific issue or topic. But then, the ability to connect the dots between different pieces of data. And I think Bernard’s present. I think there is room for machine learning where the data is able to be machine learned, if you like, to try and cut through some of the noise. So I would say probably the biggest issue for a policymaker, and even at the implementation level– and when we talk about these fantastic city-to-city city networks, they are amazing. We get a lot of value from them. But it also is quite surprising how often you say, oh, I really wish there was a case study on this, and there is. And you know what? It was presented at a conference two weeks ago. So that ability to cut through a large amount of noise, the fact that you just kind of think, OK, this direction is right. And then, someone who has a vested interest sponsors a piece of research which tells you, no, that’s not the right direction. So cutting through that noise and having trusted, high-integrity, independent, peer-reviewed bodies which are telling you this stacks up. And kind of getting to that stage where there’s an understood layman’s way of understanding in amongst cities, what is this tick of approval that is required to tell me that this research is right, it’s balanced, it’s been peer reviewed, and it’s not just some private company who wants to kind of sell you some more product? XUEMEI BAI: I guess there are many, many different challenges, like the time scale is different, and we all have our sort of day jobs which is different. So taking the time and sitting together and trying to do something is basically out of our daily routine, daily jobs. But it is really important that we I guess, step out of our innovate comfort zone and then try to look at the problem and do something about it. So I thought probably I would share with you some of my personal experience. Right up to my PhD actually, one of my first job was at a research institute in Japan. And we took on a project to try to revegetate, regenerate the vegetation in a mining site in a city in China. And the mission is that we would take the approach that is really proven to be successful in Japan in more than 1,400 different sites and then try to implement that in China. But that was the first time. And then, I was young. And right after PhD, I was very confident. I said, you know, what there is to argue about? This is great thing. It will be delivering lots of ecosystem surveys and everything. But then, bang. We hit the wall. And the locals were saying, what? Native vegetation? Why would you do that? It’s not even beautiful, and what’s the use of planting trees that you can find everywhere around here? And you were trying to explain this is about general regenerating the native forest, and this is when so and so, why this is so important to do so. But they just couldn’t get around to the idea of why this is important. And they were also really concerned about, how am I going to support the workers who are needed to take care of the experimental side for the initial two or three years. I mean, it’s out-of-pocket money for us. And then, I cannot justify planting the native trees and it’s not even beautiful. So eventually, through several rounds of co-production, co-designing, and then trying to workshop around this, we arrived into a solution, saying OK, why don’t we just surrounded this piece of native forest with fruit trees? So we grow fruit trees outside ring. And those fruit trees, they will be providing fruit, and then they will be in providing some income stream to support those people who will be taking care of that piece of revegetated land. So eventually, that’s how the project becomes successful. So what is important, I guess, here is that each one of us need to be ready to step out of our comfort zone and then learn to be adaptable, to be flexible, and then innovate– to improvise according to the context. MICHELE ACUTO: Cool. The question of context matter is always an interesting one for me because then it depends which scale of the context matters as well. And if you take we’ve done some work a couple of years back on waste management and recycling in Sydney, and it got really bogged down into very specifics of neighborhood action and so forth. But at the end of the day, the waste industry is $133 billion industry a year. It moves millions of tons between continents. Bits of the Sydney Morning Herald make it into China to be recycled to be reprinted in Sydney. So in a sense, there the context matters, but there are multiple scales of the context. Jenny Robinson, University College London says you cannot think of cities not thinking about each other. Cities live in a world of cities. They naturally relate to each other. And not just to your neighbors, to sort of an international context. The question of the fast turnaround, I like it because, at the end of the day, there’s been for a little too long an appreciation in academia– and I say this with care, but there’s an appreciation that consultancy is a bad thing and that co-production sways the quality of fundamental research– which is true and not. You can ask questions together. So, for instance, in Melbourne at the moment, we’re doing a piece of work with students and with researchers on nighttime governance and the governance of the nighttime. We’ve rarely paid attention to what happens after hours. It’s a fundamental story. And yet, that question we’ve asked not just because we were interested, but because a company called [INAUDIBLE] is also interested in digging further with that. So you can ask important questions together rather than sort of just academically. And I think one of the biggest challenges I find with that is the question of funding. Most of the academic funding remains– and this is out of the panel– national– hence aligned to national priorities, hence aligned to national definitions of what disciplines are. And going back to Australia, I had to relearn entirely the whole classification of numbers that the classify me as a lawyer rather than a planner than something else. And the fact that, beyond that, the bulk of the funding is philanthropic. And the OECD says, of the last two years, the $20 billion of funding that went into international development 91% was earmarked, 48% was oriented towards global international programs. So it wasn’t caring for specific local needs, and it had really specific conditions attached to it. And that’s basically where the money is. It can be good or bad. Great examples are Bloomberg and Ford Foundation and so forth. But where is the money, and what conditions are attached to the money? MONICA CONTESTABILE: Thank you very much. We have a few minutes left, and we would like to hear from you, from the audience, if there are questions. And please identify yourself. AUDIENCE: Hi. I have a question for all the three panelists, and that’s how would you actually implement? Because we talk a lot about the signs, but how do you actually translate from science to policy to implementation? So that’s the thing. And I would like to actually suggest a possible solution that I think we’ve got it in Singapore. For example, the National Parks Board, we do have people who are scientists who then are able to actually identify the problems, craft it into questions, work with the scientists and citizen scientists, craft the problem, come up with the results, translate the results into policy, and then get it implemented by [INAUDIBLE]. So we need a channel for implementation, but I would like to actually ask the panelists what do you see as the most important part to translate from results, policy to implementation? Thanks. And the other point is that I think Singapore resonates very well with Melbourne in a lot of the things you do. Great. ARRON WOOD: OK. I’ll take the first question. I agree with you about the path from science to policy to implementation. There are so many good ideas and great pieces of research that are sitting on shelves. So I have a lot of admiration for people who can get the network, have the perseverance, the application, the dedication, and have the sales skills, frankly– we need to all be good marketers even if we’re in a lab– to take that through from a question to delivery. And when it happens, it’s fantastic. So I’ll go back to the urban forest strategy. And probably, it’s a little bit of the hair-on-fire stuff because we’d like to think that we’re sitting there and planning objectively and with great long timelines. But the urban forest strategy came in a time of crisis. So what happened was the millennium drought started effectively in 1999. And for the first couple of years, people went, oh, it’ll be fine. It’s just Australia. We have a drought, and then it starts raining again. And then, of course, it kept on going and it kept on going and it kept on going. So the urban forest strategy really only began in about sort of 2006 after we’d been through nearly five or six years of drought. And what that gave the kind of science to policy to implementation was a sense of urgency. It gave it budget. And it gave it a heck of a lot of people sitting around the table from all the various levels of decision makers to funders. So I think, in some respects, it’s, how do we get that sense of urgency around the question we are asking? Is the question we’re asking the right question? And when you talk about citizen science, I think it’s a really important sort of perspective you’re bringing because how often do we actually say, what is the question that you want answered? So when we go out to our citizen scientists and ask them, what are the research areas or what are the questions the burning questions you want answered, it’s very different to us seeing around the room and trying to dream up what we think is the answer. So I think there is a bit of social science that we need to inject in all of these sciences, including environmental science, because it’s amazing how often even infrastructure questions come back to being about people. And I think climate science is firmly about people again. So it takes a lot of different disciplines I think to get you from a question to policy to implementation. It takes a sense of urgency, whether that’s manufactured or real, and it does take real and genuine funding. And it also takes someone who’s a bit bloody minded. It takes someone who just keeps on pushing and keeps on pushing. XUEMEI BAI: I think you know that, in your question, you already answered your question. For example, we are talking about translating science into policy. But then, I think the mode is, in a way, shifting– try to promote the value of co-designing the question from the very beginning together with the practitioner. In this way, the city government or policymakers, they have ownership in the research itself, rather than scientists coming in saying, oh, OK. Here is a great finding. Why don’t you do something about it? So it is really important that the questions are co-designed. And then, during the process, also try to co-produce the knowledge and then co-own whatever the outcome is. But that doesn’t really address you know the huge amount of urban science that are sitting there that can be actually translated. So this is a very complex sort of challenge, but one of the things that myself and some of my colleagues are trying to say is that, from the city side, probably it is in time and it is important to have some sort of chief scientist, chief officer– science officer– kind of role so that that person can play a sort of linkage between the scientific community and then the policymakers. So, for example, for me, if I want to approach a city, very often I don’t know whom to contact. So if you do have a chief science officer, then it is very clear. OK, I can talk to that person. And then, that can give me access to the policymakers, to the other practitioners. So that’s one of the quite practical kind of suggestions. Why don’t all the cities above a certain size and can afford this try to introduce this post of chief science officer? MICHELE ACUTO: Yeah. I’d just echo all of that. Co-produced science is translated already to begin with. And the idea of a chief scientific officer in local government is crucial, an idea sort of getting local government engaged in science, in asking the questions definitely. Not all local governments are like Melbourne or Sydney that are willing to play. Singapore, clearly one of the best examples globally. I’m a bit partial as a part NUS graduate. But clearly, one of the best examples of really senior scientists also being fairly senior or really senior government people. And I mean, we have an example at the end of the day with the conversation with [INAUDIBLE], but there’s numerous people– and in fact, lots of women– that you can name in Singapore acting with that role. So I think another point on that is opening up the possibility for the scientists to wear a policy hat and for the policymakers to wear a scientific hat. AUDIENCE: Hi. It’s Nick Campbell from Nature Research. So a recurring theme in the panel’s discussions was data, and that really seems to be the nub of a lot of the interaction between policy and the academic side. And we heard from Arron that the city of Melbourne has an open data policy and releases many data sets. But I’m interested in the flow of data the other way and the culture in research about open data. So is this a community that really embraces open data as a principle– I mean sharing data at early stages and not sitting data on an academic shelf somewhere that doesn’t get shared with practitioners? Because it’s both about implementation on the practitioner side, but if the data’s not being provided to the practitioners and they don’t understand the context of it it’s not going to change practice, right? MONICA CONTESTABILE: Do you want– we have five minutes. XUEMEI BAI: Yeah. I think this open data thing still has a very, very, very long way to go because, if you spend lots of time collecting your data, usually the first instance of research would be let me make sense of this and then let me publish at least one paper before I share this data. So that’s the kind of practice. But there are new kinds of initiatives that try to recognize data as scientific product in itself. I think Nature has this data sort of journal. So I think in that way, it is shifting a bit further, trying to recognize data collection in itself as kind of scientific product. But I agree. There is a long, long, long, long way to go, and this is one of the really crucial steps that we have to take just to openly share data. And that will enable us to build comparative studies, to build a more global sort of data set. But all this has to be done, I guess, future task. AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I’m a researcher at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, and so I commend the panel’s focus on the Global South. That was quite refreshing. A question I have is less about data, and it’s more about, perhaps, low capacity in sustainability concepts in the Global South. So when I work with small-to-medium cities, they have immense knowledge and kind of tactile ability to do their own incentives– build housing or toilets, et cetera. But concepts about sustainability tend to be quite complex for them. They’re intersecting across different systems, et cetera, et cetera. So what is the challenges of communicating the complex sciences of sustainability to decision makers with less capacity than perhaps those in the Global North? Thank you. ARRON WOOD: What a great question. I’m so glad you asked this question in the last few minutes of our session, and I think my fellow panelists have really highlighted that focus on the Global North. And one of the things that interests me every time that I go to a conference and they talk about, you know, soon 50% or 60% people will live in urban areas, Australia is at close to 90% already. And 80% of people in the City of Melbourne live in apartments, so there’s not a lot of transferable sort of sustainability research around 90% living in urban areas and 80% living in apartments. So that’s one point I’ll make. But the base level understanding is a critical one, and I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life doing this with my other hat on. And I call that my job that pays the bills. I started a social enterprise 20 years ago called Kids Teaching Kids, and we work with about 500 schools across Australia and New Zealand and in South Korea. And the whole premise of that was that, when I was in school, I was really passionate about the natural environment because I grew up on the beautiful Murray River. And I couldn’t understand why everyone just didn’t know how we are actually one and the same thing and we’re all part of the same system, and a real sense of place comes from being out there in the natural environment. And if it’s diminished, we’re diminished as well. It just seems like a fundamental thing to me. So I set about with Kids Teaching Kids implementing a program in elementary and secondary school to get that base level understanding. But most importantly, it probably comes back to this question over here. How do you motivate people? And you don’t care about what their motivation is. It could be I want to save money on my power bills. It could be anything. How do you motivate people to want to understand and know more about these natural processes that you need to know about to know about the basics of climate science? So that is, I think, the critical question. That it needs to start, they say, from early childhood. And that’s why we’ve got to do more as a research community, as policymakers, to resist this kind of push. It’s happening in Australia in some of our states where they want to remove climate science from the curriculum. And so we should be absolutely standing up in arms about that because that is an indictment on our education system. It is ideology creeping in where science should be should be well and truly firmly planted in. And what it does is it actually removes the opportunity for our kids to participate in the jobs of now and tomorrow. So even aside from the fact that we all need clean air to breathe and fresh water to drink, aside from that, these are the jobs that our kids should be being prepared for. So it’s a long-winded answer, but my whole– I’ve actually got a lot of material on kids teaching kids you’re welcome to– that my whole life has been about how do I get others to have that same base level understanding because I think, in a policy sense, in an implementation sense, we could move so much more quickly if we were having conversations coming from that base level understanding. So it’s a great question. MONICA CONTESTABILE: Thank you very much for the questions, and hold the ones you couldn’t ask for later in the break. Yeah. So very quickly, just like half a minute each, what is your takeaway today? ARRON WOOD: Half a minute. I’ll be quick. I’m so excited every time the scientific community policymakers and implementers come together in true partnership because great things happen. And I think, if you are making decisions in the absence of science and good data, you’re probably on a recipe for disaster. XUEMEI BAI: Yeah. I share that. I mean, this is a great time in a way to work in this urban science and urban practice as well. So I guess we just have to make the best of it and then try to work together and then try to generate some of the cutting-edge but also actionable sort of urban knowledge. MICHELE ACUTO: Uncharacteristically for an academic, we’re actually quite positive. It’s quite exciting. It’s quite a good time. And there’s changes both at the global and the local level that are really worth acknowledging and engaging with. I’d encourage everyone to sort of get engaged because it’s a good moment to be listened to and to make a difference in a sense. MONICA CONTESTABILE: Thank you very much everybody. It was an exciting session. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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