During the last ISEE conference, a group of researchers from Latin America (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala, and Mexico), as well as others interested in collaborating with these countries met in Barcelona to discuss and agree on how to work together and contribute to improve the environmental health in the region.
This initiative was motivated by the perceived need for a more active and collaborative agenda of research in Latin America, which focused on the specific contexts of our region. Specifically, we prepared working documents and discussed 3 selected topics considered to be of common interest: community participation, environmental justice, and transdisciplinarity research. Based on the group's discussion for each one of these 3 topics, we identified barriers, facilitators, and action items.
In brief, we identified that the main barriers regarding these 3 topics are negative or ambivalent attitudes of researchers, stakeholders, and funding organizations, and also a lack of knowledge and training for properly incorporating these issues into investigations. However, if a consistent and appropriate approach is developed to incorporate them from the early stages of study design, these issues could facilitate a comprehensive understanding of complex environmental problems and would help to translate results into action.
In addition, we discussed the development of a common agenda for collaboration with several purposes. In particular, we agreed to complete an inventory that will include, among other aspects, research groups, capabilities, topics of interest, and ongoing projects currently being developed in the region. Other purposes of this academic network were discussed (ie, training, information sharing, collaborative multisite studies), taking into account the need for setting achievable goals in a time frame that will gradually develop our common objectives.
Latin America is an area of contrasts with growing economies, urban concentration, and large disparities, and research is a fundamental component for sustainable development. We, from academia, need to make visible in the regional agenda the future challenges for a more equitable development. This will be possible if we develop high-quality research and engage stakeholders and the general community for dissemination and use of study results.
The emergent network is open to all interested in making this happen. A Web-based community will initially work on gradually developing activities, and all contributions are welcome. Visit www.grupogesp.org for additional and updated information.