International fire research activities, priorities, constraints and opportunities are examined from a late 20th century vantage point. Recent accomplishments in computer technology are identified as the single most important phenomenon responsible for the advancement of the science and "shrinking" of the globe. Computer technology and the global research cooperation it has engendered are put within the context of societal demands and research funding limitations impacting on fire research activities in the various research organisations. Society's insistence on fiscal responsibility in the conduct of science is symptomatic of a greater need to balance increased demand for resources by a growing world population with the sustainability imperative. Fire research and its practitioners are well positioned to contribute meaningfully to the debate on ecosystem management, restoration and sustainability currently underway in the global village.