2019 Trans-Atlantic Research and Development Interchange on Sustainability

TARDIS 2019 Organizing Committee:

Dr. Rupert Baumgartner, University of Gratz, Austria
Dr. Heriberto Cabezas, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Hungary
Dr. Urmila Diwekar, Vishwamitra Research Institute, USA
Dr. Klaus Keller, The Pennsylvania State University, USA
Dr. Ben Orlove, Columbia University, USA
Dr. Dave White, Arizona State University, USA


The 2019 Trans-Atlantic Research and Development Interchange on Sustainability Workshop (TARDIS 2019) is a three-day study session stimulated by presentations and discussion. The workshop involves participants from the United States, Europe, and other countries in the multi-disciplinary field of sustainability. The group will include experts from engineering, mathematical sciences, physics, ecology, economics, and political science fields. While there are many conferences on the subject of sustainability, TARDIS is unique in that it is by invitation only, small, multi-disciplinary, and addressing specific forward-looking topics in sustainability. TARDIS 2019 is sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

TARDIS 2019 will be held on September 9-11, 2019, in Estes Park, Colorado, USA. TARDIS 2019 begins at 8 A.M. on Monday, September 9 and ends at 1 P.M. on Wednesday, September 11.

The venue is the YMCA of the Rockies, Schlessman Executive Building, 2515 Tunnel Road, Estes Park, Colorado 80511, USA.

We now have 24 domestic participants and 9 international participants registered for the workshop. Participation is only by invitation. Please send submit by e-mail a title and abstract (no more than 200 words) for your presentation by July 15, 2019:



The demands of humans on the Earth have grown considerably with human population and the increase in per capita consumption of all kinds (fuels and energy, food, water, minerals, etc.) over the course of recorded history. Consider that while the Earth and its energy budget from the Sun are about the same as they were 4000 years, the human population has risen from approximately 7 million around 4000 BCE to more than 7 billion at present. The value of human economic activity as measured by the World Gross Product, a proxy for consumption, has risen from approximately US$1 billion around 4000 BCE to about US$78 trillion by 2014, both in 1990 International US Dollars. Further, about 94% of the population increase and about 99.9% of the rise in the World Gross Product have happened since 1500 BCE. This creates an unprecedented planet-wide situation where humanity has the imperative of managing the Earth within very tight constraints with little margin for error. This requires that humans be able to: (1) accurately assess the current condition of the Earth, and (2) forecast future trends as accurately as possible. Because any observation always has uncertainty, the first requirement represents a severe challenge. Because any forecasting methodology has uncertainty, the second requirement also presents a significant problem. One specific and particularly important issue arises from the application of the Precautionary Principle as an answer to uncertainty. While substantial effort has been devoted to the issue, exactly how one applies the Principle to protect humanity and the environment without stifling innovation and human development is not clear. This is important due to the tight constraints so that it is easy to have too much or too little precaution. We propose to focus the workshop on how to optimally manage the Earth for sustainability across all issues including physical (climate), biological (biodiversity), economic (value generation), energy generation (renewable and/or low impact), production (meet human needs with minimal resource use) and others, given the uncertainty in our measurements and knowledge. Therefore, the purpose of the event is to answer the following questions:

  1. What is state of the art in assessing uncertainty in observations of global sustainability issues?
  2. What improvements are needed to minimize uncertainty in these observations?
  3. What is state of the art in uncertainty when forecasting events relevant to global sustainability?
  4. Knowing that sustainability involves interacting systems (e.g., societies, business, and biological systems, etc.) each of which operates with its own set of multiple time scales (e.g., millennia, centuries, years, seasons, quarters, days, etc.), the goal of the workshop is to bring some light to this complex issue.



The meeting is organized into sequential lectures and discussions, including round-table discussion after one or more presentations addressing the specific questions.