Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $21,504 Total Non-Federal Funds: $68,998
Principal Investigators: Jon Bartholic, Lois Wolfson, Jeremiah Asher, David Lusch, Glenn O'Neil
Abstract: With an ever increasing global population and demand for food, stresses on sustainable water quality and availability will likely intensify resulting in water issues emanating in part from agricultural production practices. If these practices do not sufficiently connect in harmony with the natural system through a better understanding of system functions, particularly relative to water quality and quantity, government organizations at numerous levels may place greater constraints on agricultural operations. Such constraints will address certain popular issues and critically important ones such as water quality and quantity, yet these constraints may greatly restrict the flexibility, profit margin, and sustainability of the agricultural systems in many parts of the state and nation. The Institute of Water Research (IWR) is a focused and empowered unit that applies research and develops methods for integrating new scientific understanding into operational systems. Such a process allows IWR to better provide guidance for the sustainability of the water and land resources empowering operational food production development, and enlightened management of natural resources. By working in concert with farm and related organizations at various levels, we can benefit food production more effectively while addressing resource sustainability. This coupling is a missing link in many research endeavors within the agricultural system. We have provided many individuals and organizations with new concepts, processes and tools to serve as a starting point for further growth and dissemination of 21st Century information technologies. Furthermore, the development of new and improved tools that we incorporate into Decision Support Technologies will help users develop and enhance the sustainable use of natural and agricultural systems. Some of our successes will inform and motivate individuals around the globe to co-create with colleagues to evolve even better management methods, solutions, and new policies utilizing the new Decision Support Technologies we create. The uniqueness of our approach lies in the fact that we address real-world contemporary challenges through a process that includes co-creation with users and interfacing with agencies that may regulate the solutions (which generally involves real-time decision support tools). This co-creation and interfacing involves end users (farmers, resource technicians, certified crop consultants, natural resource specialists, etc.), government, industry, environmentalists and policy makers, as well as basic and applied researchers, educators and technical support providers. The objective of IWRs operational research approach is its integration of scientific and social knowledge with linkage to water resources, decision support, watersheds, and land use and outreach. This integrative approach helps guide agricultural practices and policy utilizing new information technologies in Decision Support Systems (DSS) and is now more critically important than ever before. Problem Because of the United States’ relative advantage from a water resource standpoint, this country's role will be increasingly significant in food production and industrial production requiring significant quantities of water, and in developing sustainable approaches to maintain waters’ ecological services. Specifically, the Great Lakes Region will have tremendous opportunities to capitalize in numerous ways on the potential of its vast water resources. But water resources management always occurs in a social context involving multiple stakeholders. Stakeholders can have radically different perceptions of the problems and potential trade-offs associated with finding solutions because of dynamic social, economic, and political factors as well as biophysical complexities of water resources issues. This complex nature of water resource management and other related issues, such as global climate change, food production, and health care, is often referred to in the scientific community as “wicked.” Research on wicked-type problems suggests that a comprehensive knowledge system sustained by a boundary organization is essential. Since its beginning the Institute of Water Research (IWR) has been, in many ways, functioning as a boundary organization. Through a history of extensive knowledge generation, engagement and facilitation, and working experience with local, state, and basin-wide organizations, IWR has a solid base of success to build upon in creating innovative knowledge systems for sustainable management of water resources. With an ever increasing global population and demand for food, stresses on sustainable water quality and availability will likely intensify resulting in water issues emanating in part from agricultural production practices. If these practices do not sufficiently connect in harmony with the natural system through a better understanding of system functions, particularly relative to water quality and quantity, government organizations at numerous levels may place greater constraints on agricultural operations. Such constraints will address certain popular issues and critically important ones such as water quality and quantity, yet these constraints may greatly restrict the flexibility, profit margin, and sustainability of the agricultural systems in many parts of the state and nation. Methods Our efforts are accomplished both by co-creation and interfacing with numerous organizations/groups and end-users. Our research will be performed in collaboration with individuals, farmers, agencies and organizations with whom we have an established working relationship. The co-creation and interfacing will be a dynamic and fully integrative process involving coupled management, scientific inputs, and awareness of the operational systems in place on the landscape. IWR will act as intermediary between science and policy because we fulfill or possess: 1) specialized roles within the organization for managing the boundary; 2) clear lines of responsibility and accountability to distinct social arenas on opposite sides of the boundary; and; 3) a forum in which information can be co-created by interested parties. Also, First we will utilize incentives to produce boundary objectives, such as decisions or products that reflect the input of different perspectives. Second, involve participation from actors across boundaries, and Third, we will have lines of accountability to the various organizations spanned by the boundary organization. One way to further our efforts is to provide tools to assist with good decision-making using science-based data and Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS). SDSS are a type of computing systems that combine the technologies of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), web accessibility, and Decision Support Systems (DSS) to assist decision-makers with problems that have spatial dimensions. Objectives (1)Continue to more effectively link knowledge with users and subsequent informed actions. (2)Continue our active involvement in leading, demonstrating and evaluating the co-creation process through numerous specific activities involving “wicked” problems. (3)Enhance decision support systems that provide support for knowledge users to make more informed decisions based on input from the knowledge generators. (4)Continued guidance on development of this new bridging structure through an external advisory body, representing a cross-section of users and scientific groups. (5)Provide an inclusive environment to facilitate a sense of trust among the knowledge users. (6)Continue to actively inform and strengthen partnerships with NGOs and other funding agencies to aid in acquiring support of IWR activities.