Tufts Launches Water Diplomacy Doctoral Program
Educating the next generation of professionals to resolve complex water problems
A new $4.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation
will enable Tufts University to create an integrative doctoral
program to address the complexities of managing an increasingly
scarce, but vital, natural resource: water.
Water issues are complex because they cross multiple
boundaries—physical, jurisdictional, geographic, and political—and
involve many stakeholders with competing needs. The planned graduate
program in "water diplomacy" aims to educate a new generation of
professionals who can resolve complex water problems through
To learn more about the Water Diplomacy doctoral
program at Tufts, visit the website.
"We recognize that science alone will not solve major water problems
nor will policies operating in a vacuum without input from science,"
says Shafiqul Islam, professor of civil and environmental
engineering at Tufts School of Engineering, professor of water
diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the
principal investigator on the grant.
The winning proposal to NSF's Integrative Graduate Education and
Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant program was submitted by a team
that included 17 faculty members from Tufts School of Engineering,
School of Arts and Sciences, and The Fletcher School; and partners in
the United States and abroad.
Today, more than a billion people lack access to clean water.
"Population growth, uneven distribution of water, rapid
urbanization, ecosystem degradation, biodiversity losses and global
climate change all affect access to this precious resource," says
Michael Reed, an expert in conservation-related research programs
and a biology professor in Tufts School of Arts and Sciences.
Consequently, a major transition is taking place in water resources
development, management, and use on local, regional, and global
"Water is scarce in many regions of the world leading to recurring
conflicts. New diplomatic approaches to resolving water conflicts
are needed which account for the varied social, economic, religious
and other intrinsic values associated with water," says Richard
Vogel, professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Tufts' new "water diplomacy" program will break new ground among
other graduate degrees and will strengthen the existing graduate
certificate program in Water: Systems, Science and Society. It
focuses on blending knowledge from natural, societal and political
domains with explicit recognition of interdependencies among these
disciplines. While traditionally, science-based management has been
the dominant driver in designing graduate water-related programs,
the Tufts program will emphasize diplomacy and negotiation as a
means of resolving water conflicts among stakeholders' conflicting
and competing needs.
"This program closes that critical gap between negotiating
stakeholder interests and implementing feasible scientific or
engineering solutions," says William Moomaw, professor of
international environmental policy and director of the Center for
International Environment and Resource Policy at The Fletcher
School. "Particularly when water crosses political boundaries, it is
essential to negotiate effective and acceptable treaties to resolve
conflicting national economic and political interests, and to
resolve inconsistent regulatory measures despite a lack of a
universal international water treaty regime or even consistent U.S.
domestic water law."
Kent Portney, a Professor of political science and expert in the
creation of sustainable cities, says the new doctoral program will
build upon Tufts' strengths in water research and diplomacy but will
be unique its focus on interdisciplinary, real-world opportunities
offered by the program.
The proposed program will initially focus on water problems in
United States and South Asia. "We chose these regions because of
their wide range of historical and emerging water problems," Islam
notes. "Our regional focus will allow us to study the origin and
nature of water disputes as well as their resolution in the context
of both a developed and a developing country."
The program will enroll 25 doctoral students over five years. In
addition to classroom instruction, the students will identify
locations of current water conflicts for on-site field work with
guidance from real-world partner organizations and faculty of the
program. There, they will use their training as water diplomats to
engage in dialogue with stakeholders to develop negotiated solutions
to these complex water problems.
"The goal is to prepare students to address real-world water issues
before they are handed a diploma," says Islam. "We're looking to
create a new breed of water diplomats, be they engineers, advisors,
or policy makers, who can create 'actionable knowledge'—solutions
they can implement in the real world in the midst of conflicting
demands, not in a classroom."
Learn more at http://waterdiplomacy.tufts.edu
[Story posted on Sept. 13, 2010]