I am currently involved in a multi-actor, interdisciplinary research project/alliance funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research: http://www.dnmark.org/ (translation is on its way). The 4-year project, called dNmark, deals with the use of Nitrogen in Denmark. Although the project started in March, the last six months have been used to carry out the background research, hire PhD students and postdocs, and reinforce links with stakeholders interested in taking part in the project.
The meeting was used to introduce newcomers to the group, to present the case studies chosen for the project, and to discuss the first results obtained or plans made. Nitrogen, as I discovered, is good and bad. Too little Nitrogen in the soil impacts on food production (wheat produced in nutrient-poor soil is poor in proteins.. which is bad when feeding pork for instance), while too much Nitrogen leaches into the water, which can reach dangerous levels for human, fauna and flora. That’s just the overall picture of course, and the issues much more complex.
About 40 people took part in the meeting: researchers (young researchers and experts), stakeholders and policy-makers. When I say took part, I mean that every side gave its point of view, which was obviously very revealing of the subject and the tensions around the Nitrogen issue. I particularly appreciated a presentation from a farmer who came to explain the impacts that regulations had on his farming practice. Not only it was a very good insight, but it was also supported by some good use of GIS!
I look forward taking further part in this project. This kind of workshops, spanning over 2 days which are spent with all the actors that should be involved in decision-making, are always interesting.