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Research Themes >> Water Across Boundaries

Water Across Boundaries:
Integration of Science, Engineering, and Diplomacy in the Water Diplomacy PhD program at Tufts University

Why do we need water diplomacy?

The ability of purely scientific and engineering approaches to address major challenges in managing water resources has reached its limit; a new approach is needed.

Water issues are complex because of their intricate coupling among natural and societal domains where people and problems interact to shape the framing of the issue. The search for scientific and engineering solutions, without understanding the driving values and political contexts, to address many water issues appear ineffective. This is because the underlying policy issues cannot be definitively described or separated from political context. Differences in socio-economic conditions and natural settings lead to different outcomes for similar water management intervention and these outcomes are not always predictable.

Natural (water quantity, quality, and ecosystems) and Societal (economy, social values and political norms, and governance) domain variables interact and compete with eachother within the Political Domain (NSPD), creating feedbacks and developing complex relationships.

 NSPD Variables

When viewed as a limited resource, water has the potential to create destructive conflicts over its division. Fortunately, knowledge of water is not a limited resource. A synthesis of explicit (scientific water information from natural domain) and tacit (contextual water information from societal domain) knowledge of water is needed to transform fixed water quantity into a flexible resource (http://waterdiplomacy.tufts.edu).

How do we plan to create water diplomats?

We are preparing the next generation of water professionals to create adaptive and actionable knowledge to resolve water problems through negotiated solutions.These students are developing the intellectual foundation to integrate knowledge from natural and societal domains through collaborative and continuous learning. Key distinguishing features of the Water Diplomacy Program include:

  • Formulation and framing of water problems must recognize that NSPD variables are intricately linked.  The NSD framework attempts to synthesize and integrate explicit and tacit water information within a dynamical and evolving context to create reliable, relevant and readily actionable knowledge.
  • Jointly define the problem by integrating knowledge from scientific and engineering disciplines (School of Arts and Science and the School of Engineering) and legal and policy disciplines (The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy).
  • Work with national and international partners to synthesize water information and contextual knowledge by examining real world case studies through the NSD framework.
  • Contribute to AquaPedia, an interactive, searchable, web-based open-access collaborative platform of global water case studies organized around NSD framework.
  • Promote interactive dialogue among producers and users of knowledge to combine disciplinary, contextual, and pragmatic perspectives in exploring negotiated solutions.
  • Conduct field work with guidance from a growing list of national and international partners including Stockholm Environment Institute, South Florida Water Management District, World Bank, Institute of Water and Flood Management, Bangladesh and South Asia Consortium of Interdisciplinary Water Studies.
  • Generate actionable knowledge and negotiated solutions
  • Facilitate sharing and dissemination of knowledge through network of users and producers using Aquapedia (http://aquapedia.waterdiplomacy.org) as a platform.

What are our current findings?

Our current findings are summarized in the following selected publications, conference proceedings and presentations.

Islam, S. and L. Susskind, 2012. Water Diplomacy: A Negotiated Approach to Managing Complex Water Networks. 352 pages. The RFF Press Water Policy Series, Routledge, New York, NY, USA.

Islam, S., 2012. Water Diplomacy Water Diplomacy: A Synthesis of Science, Policy and Politics for Water Management. IGERT 2012 Annual PI Meeting. Washington, D.C. May 30 - June 1. Video here.

Islam, S., Gao, Y. and Akanda, A. S. (2010). Water 2100: A synthesis of natural and societal domains to create actionable knowledge through AquaPedia and water diplomacy. Hydrocomplexity: New Tools for Solving Wicked Water Problems Kovacs Colloquium, July 2010 (IAHS Publ. 338, 2010), 193-197

Gao, Y. and Islam, S. (2010). Water Diplomacy: A Synthesis of Water Information and Understanding to Create Actionable Knowledge. American Geophysical Union 2010 Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 13-17

Gao, Y., Balaram, P. and Islam, S. (2009). Analysis of Water Conflicts across Natural and Societal Boundaries: Integration of Quantitative and Qualitative Modeling. American Geophysical Union 2009 Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 14-18

Islam, S., Akanda, A. S., Jutla, A., Lin, C. and Gao, Y. (2009).
AquaPedia: Building Intellectual Capacity Through Shared Learning and Open Access Platform to Resolve Water Conflicts. European Geosciences Union 2009 General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, Apr 19-24

Who are working on this puzzle?

The Water Diplomacy IGERT PhD program (http://waterdiplomacy.tufts.edu) has 17+ faculty membersfrom Tufts School of Engineering, School of Arts & Sciences, and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy with 14+ national and international partner organizations.

Who is sponsoring this research?

This interdisciplinary project is sponsored by the Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF 0966093).



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