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ISR's first scenario planning exercise

Launched in 2022, the International Science Reserve (ISR) is an open, global network of international scientists recruited to develop science-based solutions that can be readily deployed in the event of large-scale global emergencies and crises. As part of its ongoing mission, the ISR will facilitate access to scientific and technical resources around the world; conduct scenario planning exercises to increase preparation and anticipation of global effects; and convene scientists from around the world to build institutional memory in crisis management and response. 


This initiative builds on the success of the IBM-led High Performance Computing Consortium, established in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As one of the only organisations focused on mobilising scientists to solve the most pressing challenges of our time, the ISR, co-ordinated by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), has secured the participation of partners Google, IBM, Pfizer and UL. At the helm is an Executive Board chaired by President and CEO of NYAS, Nicholas Dirks and Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, Darío Gil, and includes recognised science leaders from multiple sectors. The Board conducts detailed research and analysis to advise on the nature and scope of the crisis area that the ISR will address. In addition, Mila Rosenthal serves as the Executive Director for the ISR.  

In June 2022, the ISR released a white paper that details how it approached its first readiness exercise around wildfires and the integral role that scientists can play in global crisis response efforts. For the exercise, the organisation recruited scientists from around the world to develop research concepts in response to simulated wildfire crises that may happen in the years to come. Unlike conventional readiness exercises that simulate on-the-ground disaster response, the ISR exercise prepares scientists to focus their research towards an emerging crisis. 

During a declared crisis, ISR research concepts will be used to allocate resources to participating scientists who need them; such resources include high-performance computing platforms, remote sensing capabilities or access to wet labs. Submissions from the readiness exercise will also serve as the foundation for building a diverse community of scientists committed to addressing future wildfires. 

Takeaways from the Preparing for Crisis: Lessons from the International Science Reserve Stage One Research and Development white paper are as follows:

  • In just a few months, the ISR successfully recruited more than 1,000 interested scientists from over 90 countries, and staged its first readiness exercise centred on wildfire scenarios in the United States, Greece, and Indonesia;
  • Membership included over 400 scientists in the two scientific domain groups – researchers in wildfire science and in adjacent fields – demonstrating that the ISR’s recruitment approach was successful in reaching scientists with specific expertise in wildfires; and
  • However, 87 per cent of scientists with no wildfire research experience were interested in collaborating on future wildfire crises, supporting the ISR’s goal of harnessing cross-disciplinary research to address future crises.

“Science in the time of crisis is rapid, requiring quick decisions, on the basis of limited information," says President and CEO of NYAS, Nicholas Dirks. “Scientists should, and indeed must ,play a critical role in the development of effective strategies for responding to crises – from evaluating the multiple effects of different kinds of crises to providing possible solutions and directions for mitigation, immediate and short term as well as long term. We are creating a collaborative entity in the International Science Reserve that will help us to anticipate and prepare for what might be needed to respond to the next global crisis in the best possible way.”

Image: Paseven | 123rf

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