About MRI

The Mountain Research Initiative is a multidisciplinary scientific organization that addresses global change issues in mountain regions around the world through concerted efforts, diverse communication formats and various networking events.


MRI’s Vision

MRI envisions a world in which society recognizes mountain regions as distinct social-ecological systems that provide unique and essential resources, and in which researchers and practitioners work together to manage and enhance the social, environmental, and economic capital of mountain environments.

Mountains are remarkably diverse social-ecological systems that play, directly or indirectly, a key role in most people's lives. The MRI envisions a world in which governance at all scales conceives and implements strategies that enhance the social, environmental, and economic capital of mountains regions. Through inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches, mountain research reveals key connections among physical, ecological, and social processes in or related to mountain regions, projects the biophysical and societal implications of global change for mountains and downstream regions, and identifies potential transformations towards sustainability. The mountain research community is interdisciplinary and works together to promote mountain research, define research priorities, communicate results, expand coordinated mountain research into previously neglected areas, and educate successive generations of mountain researchers.

MRI’s Mission

The MRI’s mission is to promote and facilitate research and scientific community development on global change in mountain regions to achieve sustainable mountain social-ecological systems.

Sustainable mountain socio-ecological systems will depend on a combined approach to understanding and effecting change in these environments. The MRI Coordination Office implements projects that link researchers with diverse disciplinary, geographic and cultural backgrounds to explore areas of mutual interest and define possibilities for common action. The Coordination Office strives to keep the research community informed, and works with research organizations and funding agencies to ensure that mountain global change topics are recognized and addressed. It also supports common actions through targeted funding and communications and administrative support.

MRI's Principles

  • Mountain regions are social-ecological systems: The MRI focus on mountain regions as social-ecological systems (Ostrom 2009) builds on a systemic approach across space, time, and disciplines that seeks to understand both the function of individual system elements and the cumulative effects of their interaction.
  • Knowledge is produced in many forms by many people: MRI recognizes the importance of different kinds of knowledge gained through different modes of experience and seeks to promote synergies arising from the juxtaposition of these different kinds of knowledge.
  • Knowledge has a social role: MRI values knowledge not just for its explanatory power for researchers but also for its larger social role in discovering routes toward sustainable mountain regions.
  • The great diversity within the mountain research community is an asset: Mountain researchers are, like the mountains themselves, scientifically, culturally and generationally diverse.
  • The progress of global change research in mountains requires both leadership and facilitation: MRI seeks first of all to facilitate interactions among researchers in order to create networks that can accomplish more than individual researchers can achieve on their own and at the same time MRI judiciously exerts leadership through its programs to keep them within the broad bounds of its Vision and Mission.

MRI's Goals

  1. Researchers working on global change in mountain regions form a more coherent and interactive community, through the SLC, global networking, regional networks and communications.
  2. MRI has processes that lead the community to identify and develop critical research topics through Synthesis Workshops and common projects with Future Earth.
  3. Mountain observations become more systematic, comprehensive and pertinent through the Global Network of Mountain Observatories (GNOMO), projects with the Group for Earth Observations and through the Belmont Forum.
  4. MRI community achieves a robust and common understanding of mountain social-ecological systems (SESs) through a community-wide education program and common projects with other researchers interested in remote areas.
  5. Training of the next generation of researchers interested in global change in mountain is promoted through compilation of information about existing mountain-centric curricula, support for early career researchers and development of webinars on key topics.
  6. Mountain concerns are visible within existing scientific organizations and events through engagement in existing events and with major projects such as IPCC and GEO and through the planning for “Perth IV” major mountain global change conference for 2020.
  7. MRI engages in pertinent policy processes through the Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change Program of SDC and via key policy venues identified by the SLC.

Funding and endorsement 

MRI is hosted by the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF. For projects related to sustainable development and mountains, we receive funding from the Swiss Development Cooperation SDC. We are also endorsed by the following programs:

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MRI is a Sustained Partner of Future Earth and a Participating Organization of the Group on Earth Observations.

To learn more about the history of MRI, have a look at the MRI Founding Report.