VARIP: Vulnerability and Resilience in Practice
As an integral part of the Sustainability Science and Technology Project, VARIP (Vulnerability and Resilience in Practice) seeks to help maintain and even accelerate the momentum of the sustainability science initiative over the two years between mid-2004 and the launch of the next phase of the program in mid-2006. The proposal contains two closely related elements: a set of focused Partnership Team efforts to link knowledge with action in emerging areas of sustainability science; and a larger Science-Practitioner Dialogue to catalyze significant increases in the quantity and effectiveness of knowledge/action partnerships for sustainability being pursued around the world, and to develop the capacity to establish and implement such partnerships.

The VARIP initiative is now well under way in late 2005. Roger Kasperson of Clark University and Anand Patwardhan of the Indian Institute of Technology are acting as co-chairs. An international work group of task force members has been appointed, assisted by several research assistants at Clark University. One face-to-face meeting was held in October at Bonn, Germany where project goals and core questions were established, and prospective case studies discussed. A review of the vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation literature is in progress and a report will be prepared by June of 2006. Three case studies--climate change policy in the U.S., European Union policy for natural disaster reduction in Nicaragua, and social justice issues in societal response to Katrina in New Orleans--are underway. A number of additional case studies are now in planning. The literature review and the case studies will result in a synthesis report on issues in bridging science and policy, to appear in 2005. In addition, an action plan will also be prepared of next steps needed as well as new research. The results will appear in published form but also at an international dialogue scheduled for early 2007 in Chang Mai, Thailand.

the current members of the VARIP project team include:
Lilibeth Acosta-Michlik
Department of Geography, Catholic University of Louvain
Rebecca Brenner George Perkins Marsh Institute, Clark University
Zachary Christman Graduate School of Geography, Clark University
A.J. (Ton) Dietz University of Amsterdam
Tom Downing School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford
Roger Kasperson George Perkins Marsh Institute, Clark University
Louis Lebel Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University
Amy Luers Union of Concerned Scientists
Elia Machado Graduate School of Geography, Clark University
Elena Nikitina EcoPolicy Research, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences
Dennis Ojima Colorado State University
Anand Patwardhan Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council, Indian Institute of Technology
Roberto Sanchez-Rodriguez Institute for Mexico and the United States, University of California, Riverside
Barry Smit Department of Geography, University of Guelph
Huen-Min Tsai National Taiwan Normal University
Coleen Vogel School of Geography, Archaeology, and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Juergen Weichselgartner Feodor Lynen Research Fellow
Kennedy School of Government, Center for International Development
Harvard University


Currently, our research on each case study revolves around the following inquiries:
  1. How adequate is the knowledge base to support efforts for vulnerability reduction and building resilience and adaptation? How is that knowledge distributed among actors?
  2. How may the science-practice interface best be structured and characterized? Who are the principal actors? What are their roles and interests? (Note: Every case study is encouraged to present a graphic depicting the structure of the actors and their relationships with boxes and arrows).
  3. To what extent do the actors make use of the knowledge available to them? How do the actors structure the vulnerability and resilience discussion in the transfer of knowledge? How relevant and pertinent is the knowledge to the needs of decision-makers and other actors?
  4. What barriers and failures limit the transfer of knowledge and feedbacks in the science-practice interface? Do the barriers and failures occur in the transfer of knowledge principally from science to practice or from practice to science? How important are the intermediaries between science and practice and who are they?
  5. How does the nature of institutions shape the science-practice interface? To what extent is institutional fragmentation a problem? How permeable are the boundaries of institutions to new information?
  6. What major conflicts exist among actors and institutions in the interactions between science and practice? To what extent are the conflicts primarily about values or facts? Does social justice enter into the decision-making process?
  7. What is the role of consensus in the science-practice interface? How is consensus built? How are conflicts resolved? Who are the consensus builders and mediators and what are the major processes they use?
  8. What factors contribute most to adaptive capacity? How large is the gap between the capacity to adapt and the adaptation that actually occurs? What causes this gap and how can it be reduced? What new elements of enlarged capacity would contribute most to greater resilience in the face of environmental change over the short run, the longer term?
  9. To what extent has social learning evolved among the principal actors? To what extent has social learning ameliorated or exacerbated vulnerability? What most limits or facilitates the ability to learn from one’s own experience and the experience of others?
  10. Where is the science-practice interface vulnerable to failure? Where is the science-practice interface most vulnerable to failure to future risks?
  11. How can the science-practice interface be best improved?

Case studies currently in progress include (links go to PDF summaries):
As the project continues, this site will contain more information for public consumption; in its current form, it serves as an interface to the archives for current project members. For information about this project, please contact Roger Kasperson, Marsh Institute, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, 01610.  For information about the website, or for information on accessing resources, please contact Zachary Christman.

The VARIP project is affiliated with the following organizations and projects:
Sustainability Science & Technology: Linking Knowledge With Action SPACES:
Sustainable Production and Consumption Systems
International Dialogue on Science and Practice in Sustainable Development TWAS:
The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World

Current project members can access the resource site here.

The project’s support is from a core grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation
given to Harvard University and directed by William Clark.
The project period is December 2004 - November 2006.

Vulnerability and Resilience in Practice is hosted at
The George Perkins Marsh Institute
Clark University

950 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01610
phone: 508-751-4641
fax: 508-751-4600