August 20, 2015 | Nicole Wilkinson

The 2015 WRRI annual conference featured a participatory session entitled “Prob­lems to Solutions: Linking Research to Stakeholders’ Needs Through a Research Network on Water Solutions (ReNeWS).”  In the session moderated by Laura Taylor of NC State University’s Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy, panelists and audience members worked to identify collabora­tions that can address pressing water resource issues in North Carolina.

“This is about linking research and stakeholders,” said Taylor. “By stakehold­ers, I mean those inside the research community — because so often we don’t know each other — as well as stakeholders in the broader commu­nity, whether they be policy, industry or non-profit organizations.” Taylor is co-PI of ReNeWS, an NC State University-wide effort that seeks to address North Carolina water issues by creating an interdisciplinary network of water-resource researchers.

Through a 1-year grant from NC State’s Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development (ORIED) involving six co-PIs, including WRRI director Dr. Susan White, ReNeWS aims to connect people working on water-related issues across different disciplines at the university with the goal of fostering new collaborations and assembling teams that can compete successfully for new funding opportunities to solve complex water issues. In particular, there is an emphasis on lowering the barriers between the natural and engineering sciences and the human dimensions of water issues embodied by social sciences and humanities.

In addition to the session at WRRI’s annual conference, ReNeWS hosted a spring seminar series and a graduate symposium, and is planning a water summit in Wilmington on October 8-9, 2015. These forums enable research faculty to interact in meaningful and useful ways. With additional emphasis of developing a plan for sustaining this effort into the future, the co-PIs are optimistic that this community of practice can serve as a model for comprehensively and effectively enhancing interdisciplinary scholarship to address one of society’s grand challenges – water resource sustainability.

In addition to Dr. Taylor and Dr. White, the ReNeWS team also includes Drs. Sankar Arumugam and Emily Berglund in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Andrew Binder in Communication, Dr. JoAnn Burkholder in the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology, Dr. Ryan Emanuel in Forestry and Environmental Resources and Dr. Walt Robinson in Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

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