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IUFRO President Niels Elers Koch

At the IUFRO World Congress 2010, Professor Niels Elers Koch, Director General of Forest & Landscape Denmark, a national centre at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, was elected IUFRO President for the period until the next IUFRO World Congress in 2014. He follows Professor Don Koo Lee, Korea, in this position, recognizing his contributions to the development of IUFRO in the past five years.

Q: Professor Koch, at the beginning of your first speech as IUFRO President at the closing of the XXIII IUFRO World Congress in Seoul, you underlined the importance of IUFRO for your personal career as a forest scientist. What can IUFRO do for a forest scientist today?

K: When I was 25 years old, I participated in my first IUFRO World Congress. It was held in Oslo, Norway, in 1976. That changed the rest of my life – to the better. IUFRO provided me with a global network of the best researchers in the area I studied. I also met with colleagues who became some of my best and everlasting friends. And I got a much better understanding and appreciation of other cultures through IUFRO. I am sure that IUFRO can do the same for forest scientists today. As “the global network for forest-related research” it offers excellent opportunities to exchange knowledge and experience, meet new colleagues and friends from all over the world and, thus, become a true “forest researcher without borders”.

Q: You describe IUFRO as a global network for forest-related research. However, not all scientists all over the world will have equal opportunities to participate.

K: I am aware of the fact that addressing today’s forest challenges requires the effective participation of scientists from truly all regions of the world. Yet, we all know that the scientific capacity of developed and developing countries continues to be disproportionate. As the new IUFRO President, I am committed to strengthening the scientific capacity where it is needed and to serve the needs of all forest researchers.

Q: It is one of IUFRO’s goals to strengthen communication among the scientific community. Does that also include scientists from other disciplines?

K: It is evident that today’s challenges regarding forests and trees are highly cross-sectoral and require us to think outside the “forest box”. There is a need to create links with other sectors and scientific disciplines and to provide effective platforms for the exchange of information, deliberation and mutual learning. The global IUFRO network is uniquely positioned to provide such a platform and I am firmly committed to build on this strength of our scientific network and to expand it where needed.

Q: Finally, IUFRO has over the past few years positioned itself more closely at the science-policy interface providing scientific information and assessments to international processes. Will it continue to do so in the future?

K: It is part of our new and ambitious vision laid down in the IUFRO Strategy 2010-2014 that IUFRO shall also “serve the needs of decision makers.” IUFRO plays an important role as source of high quality scientific information on issues of global concern at the science-policy interface which will, of course, also contribute to increasing the visibility of forest research and science-based research findings.

The interview was published in IUFRO News 9/2010 at http://www.iufro.org/publications/news/electronic-news/io-news-1009/.