Research programs

In 2020 there were nine IIASA research programs carrying out research into the dynamics of global change. These programs used holistic approaches and effective, interdisciplinary collaborations to identify the multiple solutions needed to bring about a global transformation to true sustainability.

Advanced Systems Analysis

The Advanced Systems Analysis Program developed, tested, and made available new quantitative and qualitative methods to address problems arising in the policy analysis of socioenvironmental systems. The program’s research aimed to support decisions in the presence of ambiguity of stakeholder interests, complexity of the underlying systems, and uncertainty.

Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases

Societies often respond to global long-term development challenges with policy decisions steered by local and near-term interests. The Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases Program developed and applied methods to reveal policy interventions whose immediate benefits from reduced pollution could enhance public support for the transformational changes required for global sustainable development.

Ecosystems Services and Management

The Ecosystem Services and Management Program used its integrated modeling framework and data systems to provide a trusted science base for land management policy processes throughout the world, aiming to improve human wellbeing and the environment through sustainable management of the Earth’s natural resources.


The way society uses energy gives rise to major environmental, social, and economic challenges. The Energy Program identified viable solutions to these challenges, analyzed whether current policies are on track, and employed a systems perspective to examine interactions between different sectors and objectives. A central focus of the research was on energy strategies that help maximize synergies and minimize trade-offs between different societal objectives..

Evolution and Ecology

The Evolution and Ecology Program aimed to enhance our fundamental understanding of the ecology and evolution of populations, communities, and ecosystems using new mathematical and computational methods. The program’s research aimed to provide guidance on how common goods could be managed to avoid collapses due to overexploitation and other human impacts placing the Earth’s ecosystems under stress.

Risk and Resilience

The Risk and Resilience Program addressed social-ecological risks that are embedded in complex systems and characterized by potentially cascading and irreversible consequences. Researchers focused on identifying risk drivers and assessing probabilistic outcomes, co-developed stakeholder-driven policy options, and co-designed governance regimes in the face of heterogeneous values.

Transitions to New Technologies

The Transitions to New Technologies Program aimed to further understanding of the drivers, constraints, impacts, and dynamics of technological change, particularly in areas that are key for global sustainability. The program disseminated policy-relevant research findings through high-level global fora and participated in major international cross-cutting research projects and assessments.


The Water Program provided new methodological development and agenda setting research, seeking solution oriented policy assessments of complex water challenges that require interdisciplinary approaches. The program built collaborative partnerships with multi-sector stakeholders and contributed to capacity building for future water policymakers and managers.

World Population

The World Population Program applied multi-dimensional demography to strengthen the understanding of the central role the human population plays in the global environmental system and sustainable development. The program’s researchers contributed to cutting edge science and collaborate with national and international agencies to deliver policy-relevant, high quality research.