Interdisciplinary Research on Water Resources

Looking back, it has often been “technocratic thinking” that has paved the way for MWEPs. Expected influences on ecosystems, societies and economies have been oversimplified or misjudged in the planning stages. Only retrospectively, in many cases, it has turned out that these interventions had taken place within highly complex and coupled systems. The outcome of supposedly simple and determinate water management measures had proven to be unpredictable in advance, with some of the impacts affecting societies decades or even centuries later. The desire for immediate and simple on-hand solutions has a tendency to blur people's vision and rational thinking when it comes to assessing burdens on future generations. The awareness that technical measures alone are not sufficient for meeting present and future challenges in resource management is a relatively young one, and it still needs to be backed up by scientific, ethical, social and political reflections.

This is where the need for interdisciplinary approaches and research designs comes into play. Interdisciplinary research in its true sense is not a goal as such but must be tailored to address many-faceted research questions in their full complexity and to shed a new light on old problems. In this respect, water resource management and the imbalance between mankind's technological capabilities and its systemic intelligence are an ideal field of interdisciplinary research: we deal with coupled and complex systems, we have to find immediate answers concerning the adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change, and we have to integrate social, economic and ecological aspects into long-term water management schemes. Undoubtedly, a task such as this would demand too much from the knowledge provided by one single scientific discipline alone.

The Interdisciplinary Research Tradition of the BerlinBrandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities provides an optimal stage for such integrated and interdisciplinary research endeavours. Since 1994, more than 70 Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRG) have been established there, becoming an out of the ordinary work concept within German research landscape. The general objective of the IRGs is to seize on topics of high scientific and societal relevance, to conduct research on questions of future importance and to initiate a dialogue between science and society. In all of these projects, close relations between members of the Academy and researchers from different national and international research institutions have developed. Another important objective of the Academy is to provide knowledge-based advice for the society and for politics.

In 2011, based on an initiative of Reinhard Hüttl and Oliver Bens, the IRG Society – Water – Technology was established for a term of 3 years. The idea of this IRG, whose members and associates form the group of authors of this book, fits perfectly into this tradition.

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