William San Martín (DIGS) awarded an NSF grant to accelerate research and policy to reduce global nitrogen pollution

William San Martín has received a 4-year NSF grant for the project Accelerating Coordination across Research and Policy Networks to Halve Nitrogen Waste (iN-Net) ($1.49 million, Award 2412593). The project works with international scientific networks and policymakers in South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the US, and Europe, as well as with intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations Environment Program - Nitrogen Working Group, a forum of 80+ government representatives created in 2019 to explore the challenges of governing nitrogen pollution and developing new national and international policy instruments.

In collaboration with researchers David Kanter at New York University, Xin Zhang at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, and Peter Groffman at the City University of New York, the project aims to support the mandates of recent UN Resolutions on Sustainable Nitrogen Management and the ambitious goal of halving nitrogen waste by 2030.  

While nitrogen pollution may not have received the same level of public attention as carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, or climate change, it is a pressing issue intricately linked to these global challenges. The overuse and inefficient use of nitrogen fertilizer for food production, among other human actions, has led to a cascade of long-lasting negative impacts on the planet, humans, and ecosystems. Consequently, nitrogen has become one of the most complex and urgent problems for environmental science and governance today. To tackle these challenges, the project will support international cooperation across research and policy in three critical areas for nitrogen science and policy: data, governance, and climate. 

San Martín will oversee the governance area of the project and lead an international, interdisciplinary working group dedicated to addressing governance challenges globally. This group will identify important knowledge gaps, social barriers, and policy challenges. The goal is to develop research-action agendas to aid UN Member States and research communities in promoting sustainable nitrogen management practices while keeping close attention to disparities in current research capacities and governance tools, as well as the distinct needs and agendas across the Global North and South.